Gary Campbell reflects on the pride America once reserved for those who helped fuel its growth.
For decades, coal was one of the most influential industries in America, powering businesses, heating homes, and providing many rural communities with well-paid, often unionized jobs. But since then, researchers arrived at the consensus that mining coal is bad not only for the environment and the climate, but public health too—which has prompted a backlash that has damaged the industry.
The New York Times, for example, reports that coal production is headed toward its lowest point in 35 years. Also, three of the largest coal producers in the country have declared bankruptcy in a six-month span, and since 2014, more than 191,000 U.S. miners have lost their jobs.
In West Virginia, stricter environmental controls and the availability of natural gas has resulted in widespread job losses and mine closures. I spoke with Gary Campbell, a miner in Fairmont, West Virginia, about some of the dangers of his job and how he copes with many Americans’ increasingly negative perception of coal. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Green: How did you get this job?
Campbell: I went to college for business administration, but I wasn’t on a full ride. I needed money, so my dad, who worked in the mines, got me a part-time job. I stayed in school part-time and worked at the mines full-time because the money’s really good. I just kind of stayed with it, even after school.
Green: How long have you been working in the mines?
Campbell: In 2001, I was working for a contractor doing construction at the mines and I’ve been working at Murray Energy since 2004. I’m on my 13th year; I’m salaried and a part of the union. My parents really didn’t want me to work in the mines because it’s dangerous. They wanted my brothers and I to go to school, and try to get out of the mines to pursue other things. But, it’s just really hard to pass up that kind of money.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/08/coal-mining/496277/