Coal mining is a risky industry with accidents

Having been raised by a union miner and now a wife of a union miner, I am deeply offended by the words of Greg Kessler. The only truth to this letter this man has written is that, yes there have been explosions in other mines, even union mines. There is methane in all coal mines.

However, union mines make sure safety regulations are followed and methane readings are taken properly. The only difference in a union mine and a non-union mine is that union miners have a voice. My father and husband do not have to do a job that they feel is unsafe. This does not mean that I don’t have to worry about losing my loved one in an accident because I worry every day. The reality is that it is a risky industry and that it could happen at any time, but the union backs my family and yet again gives them a voice.

It’s not just about toilet paper in the bath house or silly job help situations. It’s about working under unsupported top, working in too much dust, or too high of methane readings. It’s about working side by side with the same men for years who become your brothers whether you are union or not. It’s about caring about these people and their lives and not wanting to watch those you care about die needlessly at the hands of greedy companies.

You may not want our union or whoever’s “uneducated opinion” you are talking about, but your friends have been lost in a tragedy to a greedy company. No matter how you look at it; it just doesn’t have to keep happening. We need safety and regulation in our coal  mines—I’m not afraid of it. I have never seen a true coal miner get too upset over toilet paper or have too much free time to be very hung over. The type of striking you are talking about happened in the 1960s and 1970s. The same time in mining history that a non-union mine would have been called a “scab” mine. These days, men work. God bless you sir as you are healing from you losses.


Jessica Trent Miller


Remember the miners who risk their lives

I had a friend in college in Canada. His dad was a miner for Inco in Sudbury and he had been buried in mining accidents two or three times. He had suffered multiple fractures during these incidents. Pinned in the rubble, sometimes without his headlamp and pitched into total darkness while his dedicated friends and co-workers feverishly put their rescue plans into action.

I saw my first coal miner after I moved to Virginia in 2001. He looked like anyone else, except with coal dust imbedded into his hands, face and clothes. But in addition to collapses, these men face the risk of a sudden explosion.

Today I turned on a light. A simple task all of us have done countless times in our lives. If we think about where our electricity comes from, we probably only remember our power companies. However, the tragedy that mining communities face from time to time, and the one in Montcoal that stirred us all recently, remind us that electricity is far more expensive than a few cents per kilowatt hour.

From now on, I hope that every time all of us turn on the television, an appliance or a simple light, that we remember the fine people who risk their lives, in tunnels or in some cases, while working on drilling platforms. All of these people help make our lives so convenient that it becomes easy to overlook them as well as their families and friends who often give so much for our simple indulgences.

Please accept our heart-felt condolences for this one, of many past, and hopefully fewer future tragedies.

Peter Ernst

Charlottesville, Va.

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