Before coal miners begin rejoicing the end of “Obama’s War on Coal,” they should realize the war on their jobs isn’t over—that war began well before Barack Obama took the oath of office.
Amid the name calling, political propaganda, and willful ignorance that came as a result of coal industry’s “War on Coal” campaign, many Appalachian miners forgot a very important fact, their jobs have always been considered overhead on the company’s quarterly statements. Their job, like any other overhead such as the cost of supplies, fuel, equipment etc., is a drain on the company’s overall profit. Within our system of capitalism and free market economics, businesses must continually seek to reduce expenses (overhead) so they can increase their quarterly returns, satisfy their stockholders, and compete with other companies on a global scale.
As Bruce Stanley stated in the new documentary film Blood on the Mountain, “Coal doesn’t want you to have a job, because coal does better if you don’t have a job. That’s benefits that don’t have to be paid, that’s salaries that don’t have to be paid, that’s so when you’re broken and busted you don’t have to be cared for.”
If anything, Trump’s signature paved the way to reducing mining jobs in Appalachia by opening the floodgates on surface mining, a highly productive form of mining that requires fewer miners who can be paid lower wages. If a coal company can make a higher profit by surface mining, why would they be inclined to open and operate as many underground mines?
This has not been a win for coal miners, this has been another win for coal companies.
Need more proof of coal’s continued mechanization? See below.
While the stream protection rule that Trump and congress just eliminated did not directly impact this form of contour surface mining, it is important to realize that the coal industry is finding more ways to recover coal using fewer workers. The high wall miner featured in this video effectively replaces the need for many underground mines and larger surface mines. It only requires four employees to operate per shift.