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MAY - Underground Mining - Buyer’s Guide Issue

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That hope as a real basis: Appalachia

has a valuable resource that the world

needs. Each new generation that invests

in the region does so based on that

reality. They build upon a legacy of more

than a century – an industry that’s part

of what defines the region, for better or


The names change, but the story is the

same: They see opportunity. They take

the risk. They keep on mining coal. The

ebb and flow of the industrial tide, the

gradual moving of mountains and the

opening and closing of mines, is like the

rhythm of the seasons.

There are men and women who work at

the same desk for 20 years, but for half

a dozen different companies. They just

keep on doing what they do.

Sometimes it takes many years for things

to come full circle – like when hazards

left behind by a long-abandoned mine

are finally removed when a new round

of mining takes place, eliminating the

hazards and reclaiming the land back to

its natural state.

It’s a slow but consistent process – a

reality where the only practical solution

to mistakes made by past generations

of miners is the better work of new

generations of miners.

Some even set out to repair the industry’s

legacy – to offer a kind of redemption to

the reputation of predecessors who didn’t

know what we do now about reclamation

but nonetheless laid important industrial


One place where this is true is in

Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region,

where just about every mine exists on

a site that’s been mined before. There,

they readily acknowledge the downside

of the industry’s legacy: environmental

hazards left behind by mines that had

their biggest boom a century ago, long

before modern methods of reclamation.

As in other coal-producing regions,

the cleanup is paid for in conjunction

with mining of the remaining coal. It’s

a monumental cleanup task that could

never be realistically accomplished with

public funds. In a lot of places with a long

industrial history, mining truly is the only

thing that can set right what mining once

set wrong.

Still, it’s important to remember that

some of the people who left these scars

on the landscape were also innovators in

their time – people whose work played

an important role in making the modern

world what it is. They, like today’s industry

leaders, are those who had the guts to

take the risk.

The past is not defined just by its

successes or by its failures; often,

they’re inextricably linked. That’s true

as business cycles play out in the rise

and fall of companies and as the mining

industry works to show the world how its

environmental record has improved.

The next generation of operators in the

coal industry are coming from a variety of

backgrounds – some the sons of longtime

mine owners and others who are new to

the region, coming for the promise of a

profitable investment.

But all of those who jump in to build

something after a downturn are those

who aren’t afraid to take risks – who

focus on the opportunity instead of the

uncertainty. They’re picking up the legacy

in different ways and carrying it forward

with optimism about the role coal will play

in the future.

After all, there will be another boom.