On “In the Black” by Gary Bentley

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Photo by Lance Booth, Courtesy “The Daily Yonder

In January, I came across the first of a new series on the Daily Yonder titled “In the Black.” It is an accurate and gritty portrayal of coal mining as told through the personal story of former eastern Kentucky coal miner, Gary Bentley. Admittedly, I lost track and didn’t continue with the series before eventually dropping back in on his 16th installment, “An Unlikely Band of Brothers.” As with the first segment, a theme of drug abuse emerged, painting present day miners in a not so flattering light.

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The Women of Appalachia – IWD

Today is International Women’s Day.

We should all take a moment to recognize the women who have been and remain the central support in our lives.
The truth is, the pride and heritage of Appalachia comes from Appalachia’s women. It always has and always will. But sadly, many women go unappreciated and are placed within stereotypical gender roles.
Let’s take this day, International Women’s Day, and every day to honor and respect the sacrifices women have made both in our region and all around the world. Let’s all set to work changing the paradigms.
#IWD2016

Broken Promises

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There is an unspoken promise that has been made by politicians and coal companies in Appalachia. It states that if people fight against the “War on Coal” companies can begin to open up mines again, thereby sending miners back to work making good money. There is the promise that Appalachia can be made great again, and that life will somehow improve beyond what it ever has been. But it is a promise that can never be fulfilled—it is a promise that has never been fulfilled.

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Repetition

There are many times I have been writing a post and stopped mid-thought to reflect on purpose and place. The majority of what I have stated on this blog and in public address is nothing original. My thoughts are simply  reiterations precipitated from decades of struggle. Perhaps the only thing new is the time in which I speak them.

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Thoughts on a “Former West Virginia Miner”

A few friends re-posted the article below on Facebook and it spurred my thoughts on a subject near and dear to my heart.

There are some miners who think only of themselves, who take the paychecks and say “I’m a proud coal miner, with a proud heritage,” then spit hatred towards anyone who says anything negative about their beloved coal industry. Of course, I should put much of the last statement in the past tense because that “beloved” coal industry has done exactly what I’ve expected, they’re pulling up stakes and leaving us with nothing—again. But hey, at least they have the common decency to ask for millions of dollars in bonuses for their CEOs while they strip their aging coal miners of their pensions and healthcare benefits. That last sentence was loaded with sarcasm if you couldn’t tell.

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Mining, Diesel Particulate Matter, & Cancer

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We didn’t have rail at Alpha Natural Resources’ Paramont Deep Mine 26, even though it was Southwest Virginia’s second largest mine at the time. Entry in and out of the mine was down an 2,500 ft. slope to reach a vertical depth of roughly 400 feet and access to the Lower Banner Seam. I recalled the rumors when DM 26 first opened in the early 2000s. A lot of the older miners kept  talking about how “hot” it was. In mining terms, “hot” means there’s a lot of methane gas thereby increasing the risk of a mine explosion. The rumors were true, and at one point the mine was liberating seven million cubic feet of methane every 24 hours, more when low pressure systems would pass through. None of it was recovered.

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The Problem with Environmentalism in Appalachia

June 2009 Hundreds of people on both sides of the mountaintop removal issue gather along W.Va. 3outside Massey Energy’s Goals Coal Co. processing and shipping plant. Gazette photo by Chris Dorst.

I tend get flak from both sides of the argument surrounding coal. Environmentalists distance themselves from me because I am often critical of them, and some even hate me these days. Pro-coal folks tend to dislike me for my stance against coal companies. It only goes to show that telling the truth has never been popular, or easy.

So let’s get to it.

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