Archive | United States Mining History

A 1917 coal mine explosion in southern Colorado killed 121. But it’s just a faint memory in the state’s history. – by Jesse Paul (Denver Post – April 27, 2017)

A strike of a match probably led to Colorado’s deadliest disaster. In an instant, the Hastings Mine, outside Trinidad, became a mass grave, leaving 121 men — most of them immigrants from Europe — entombed by an explosion and collapse triggered by a well-respected safety inspector.

Just outside the mine’s entrance, groups of children and weeping women crowded around and waited for news of the men. Those tasked with searching for survivors quickly came to the grim realization that there were none. “I won’t say we found three men,” a rescuer told a reporter, according to historical records, “but we did (find) parts of them.”

It was April 27, 1917, just a few weeks after the U.S. joined World War I. The explosion was the blackest mark among a series of mining disasters that over decades had killed hundreds of men who were working risky jobs to provide for their families. And yet, it’s not been a major narrative in Colorado’s economic history. Continue Reading →

The Coal Mining Massacre America Forgot – by Lorraine Boissoneault (Smithsonian Magazine – April 25, 2017)

The mountains of southern West Virginia are riddled with coal—and bullets

The gunfight in downtown Matewan on May 19, 1920, had all the elements of a high-noon showdown: on one side, the heroes, a pro-union sheriff and mayor; on the other, the dastardly henchmen of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Within 15 minutes, ten people were dead—seven detectives, two miners and the mayor.

Three months later, the conflict in the West Virginia coal town had escalated to the point where martial law was declared and federal troops had to intervene. The showdown may sound almost cinematic, but the reality of the coal miners’ armed standoffs throughout the early 20th century was much darker and more complicated.

Then, as now, West Virginia was coal country. The coal industry was essentially the state’s sole source of work, and massive corporations built homes, general stores, schools, churches and recreational facilities in the remote towns near the mines. For miners, the system resembled something like feudalism. Continue Reading →

“You don’t go start a war to give them jobs” – by Staff (Mining Journal – April 25, 2017)

Former New York mayor and billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg has gone after US coal mining with both barrels this week, and said miners of the black gold need the same support as military veterans.

This week Bloomberg launched a book on the Paris climate agreement, a coal documentary and revealed a US$3 million donation to a programme that supports and retrains miners. In interviews, he said more support was needed for the workers hit by mine closures.

“No matter what [the Trump government] does, we are going toward a world where coal is going to be less-used, where fewer people are going to be working in the industry, and we’ve got to find ways to get jobs for people not just in this industry but in lots of industries around the world being pushed out by technology,” he told the Associated Press. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Poll Shows Mining’s Environmental Accomplishments Unknown to American Voters (U.S.A. National Mining Association – April 20, 2017)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The vast majority of American voters are unaware of the environmental and technological advancements of today’s mining industry according to new polling, suggesting mining’s legacy skews perceptions.

A new poll by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA) shows less than 10 percent of voters could assess the scale of emissions reductions that have been achieved in coal-powered plants, the acreage reclaimed and restored from mined lands, and other benchmarks of mining’s progress. Just one in five voters correctly identified clean coal technologies that have dramatically reduced power plant emissions since the first Earth Day in 1970.

“This poll appears to underscore the stubborn impressions that remain from turn-of-the-century mining before the advent of the environmental era,” said Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO. “The message here is that we need to do a better job of educating the public about the accomplishments of our industry—which like all basic industries is vastly different today than it was before the first Earth Day.” Continue Reading →

[Arizona Mining] FROM THE EDITOR: State needs help filling gaping holes from mining (Green Valley News – April 16, 2017)

There are trade-offs when you live in a mining state. Mining brings jobs, feeds economies, and pulls minerals out of the ground that make our lives better. But in Arizona’s case, mining also leaves tens of thousands of gaping, abandoned holes across the landscape.

Nearly 30 years ago, a group of Green Valley men decided to do something about it. You read about them in our paper last Sunday. The group calls themselves the Hazardous Abandoned Mine Finders, and they have plotted the locations and posted warning signs at about 10,000 shafts in Southern Arizona.

For much of that time, they did it with the blessing of several government agencies, who often provided the signs. Now, they’ve been pushed aside in favor of … well, pretty much nothing. Continue Reading →

Indonesia eyes truce with Freeport as losses mount for both sides – by Fergus Jensen (Reuters U.S. – April 12, 2017)

JAKARTA – Losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars appear to be pushing the Indonesian government and mining giant Freeport McMoRan to resolve a row that has crippled operations at Grasberg, the world’s richest copper mine, for three months.

Freeport says it has lost revenue of about $1 billion since the export of copper concentrate from Grasberg was halted on Jan. 12 under new rules issued by the government. The government has lost millions of dollars in royalties and is worried about layoffs and a slowing economy in the restive Papua region, where the giant mine is located.

“There’s a lot of grandstanding in public – that, with our economy being close to a $1 trillion a year now, Freeport is a small matter,” said a senior Indonesian government official, who estimated the lost royalties and taxes from the mine at about $1 billion a year. Continue Reading →

Even Under Trump, a U.S. Coal Giant Plots Cautious Comeback Plan – by Tim Loh (Bloomberg News – April 4, 2017)

President Donald Trump has been offering coal companies everything under the sun –- fewer regulations, more land to mine, a freer pass from concerns about climate change. The combination, he says, will put coal miners back to work.

But the nation’s biggest coal miner, Peabody Energy Corp., is touting a less grandiose strategy. It’s no longer looking — or expecting — to boost coal output significantly, said Chief Executive Officer Glenn Kellow Tuesday, after his company emerged from yearlong bankruptcy. Instead, he’s focused on a narrower objective: simply making money.

“We’re much more interested in growing shareholder returns, shareholder value, than we are on growing tons of volume,” Kellow said in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. Continue Reading →

After Cyclone Debbie, China replaces Australian coal with US cargoes – by Henning Gloystein and Timothy Gardner (Reuters U.S. – April 5, 2017)

China, the world’s biggest coking coal importer, is scrambling to cover Australian supply disruptions after Cyclone Debbie knocked out mines and rails by turning to an unusual source: the United States.

Debbie, which hit Australia’s Queensland state last week, caused the evacuation of several mines and damaged coal trains supplying export terminals, triggering two miners – Yancoal Australia and QCoal – to declare force majeure on its deliveries. With other miners like BHP Billiton and Glencore also affected by the storm’s fallout, more disruptions may follow.

Force majeure is a commercial term that means a buyer or seller cannot fulfill their obligations because of outside forces. It is typically invoked after natural disasters or accidents. The outages caused Australian coking coal futures on the Singapore Exchange on Monday to spike by over 43 percent to a last settlement of $225 per tonne, the highest since the beginning of the year. Continue Reading →

Indonesia Allows Exports From Freeport Mine in Stop-Gap Deal – by Yoga Rusmana and Eko Listiyorini (Bloomberg News – April 4, 2017)

Indonesia has issued a temporary mining license to Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s local unit that will allow the company to resume concentrate exports from the world’s second-largest copper mine after a gap of about 12 weeks.

The permit for Grasberg is valid for eight months from the time that the producer was first offered a special mining license or IUPK in February, Teguh Pamudji, secretary-general at Indonesia’s Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday. The government will continue talks with Freeport on a long-term financial stability pact, he said.

A Phoenix-based Freeport spokesman, Eric Kinneberg, reiterated Tuesday that talks to resume exports are continuing. “We are progressing constructive discussions with the government that would enable PT-FI to resume concentrate exports while retaining our contract until a mutually satisfactory replacement agreement is completed,” he said in an email, referring to the Indonesian unit by its initials. Continue Reading →

Lessons learned from demise of Northwest Washington State aluminum industry – by Don Brunell (The Courier-Herald – April 3, 2017)

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at

Driving east along SR 14 these days, you see water pouring out of Columbia River dams. It is already a high water year with much of the runoff from our heavy mountain snowpack yet to come.

It is part of our “feast or famine” weather cycle. As you pop over the hilltop near the historic Maryhill Museum, you look down to see John Day Dam with its floodgates open spilling massive amounts of water.

Then you see remains of the razed Goldendale Aluminum Co. smelter next to the dam. That plant once accounted for 1,300 jobs, $40 million in personal income and $2 million in Klickitat County taxes. Now, you just see concrete pads, a water tower and a small office. Continue Reading →

[Aluminum Related Manufacturing] Boeing and Washington’s Aerospace Industry, 1934-2015 – by Jim Kershner (September 8, 2015)

For instance, aluminum, produced with cheap hydroelectric power in Spokane,
Longview, and other cities, almost immediately became the state’s second-
biggest wartime industry. Much of that aluminum was bound for Boeing, where
it was fashioned into wings and fuselages.

The Boeing Company, founded in 1916, hit a low point in 1934 when it was forced out of the airline business and was forced to concentrate on its original airplane-manufacturing business. The company’s fortunes revived in the buildup to World War II. Thousands of workers swarmed over Boeing’s plant on Seattle’s Duwamish River, making the bombers and fighters that helped win the war. Employment topped 50,000 by 1944.

After the war Boeing entered the newly lucrative commercial-airliner market, and the Cold War revived its military contracts. In the 1950s and 1960s it diversified into an aerospace company and built missiles and rockets. The demise of the SuperSonic Transport (SST) program in 1971 resulted in the infamous Boeing Bust, a statewide economic downturn caused by the loss of 86,000 jobs. Boeing recovered over the ensuing decades, despite increasing competition from Europe’s Airbus. Meanwhile, hundreds of other aerospace companies sprang up in Washington to supply parts. Continue Reading →

Museum of Moab releases DVD featuring Steen interview and uranium films (The Times-Independent – March 30, 2017)

The Museum of Moab has released a new compilation of documentaries that will take viewers back to Moab’s uranium fever days. “Uranium Craze — Moab and Mining in the 1950s” was produced by Omni Productions and the Museum of Moab and contains never-before-seen footage of a 1992 interview with Charlie Steen by Jim Mattingly in which the “Uranium King” discusses Moab and southeast Utah during the peak of the uranium boom 40 years earlier.

In addition to the Steen interview, two movies made by Steen’s companies in about 1954 are also included. “This is Mi Vida” tells the story of Steen’s flagship mine, while “Million Dollar Drill Holes” is a promotional film produced to showcase Steen’s Moab Drilling Company.

The films include original footage of uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau in the mid-1950s. The films have been shown at Star Hall in Moab several times in the past, as part of Museum of Moab events. Continue Reading →

Coal miner stereotypes shattered in humanizing ‘Black Rock Blues’ documentary – by Christina Gregg ( – March 23, 2017)

In President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech this past January, the newly-elected commander in chief shared a message aimed at America’s defeated and downtrodden, saying, “From mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again.”

Trump made this promise to many Americans while on the 2016 campaign trail, but he perhaps courted none with the vow of overdue consideration more so than coal miners working in one of the country’s most fragile industries.

A new Rated Red production, “Black Rock Blues,” features one such coal miner and father of three, who — despite being laid off twice in one year — says things have been “more hopeful” since Trump won the presidency. Continue Reading →

[Deadwood, South Dakota] Back to the wild, wild west – by Wayne Newton (Brantford Expositor – April 15, 2012)

There’s no sugar-coating history at the Adams Museum. Violence, gambling, prostitution, stuffed pet cocker spaniels left by a rich pillar of the community, a two-headed calf and a children’s play area. It’s all there for visitors to absorb at the too-often-overlooked Deadwood, South Dakota, institution.

While Eastern-style honesty might not have been a hallmark of Deadwood when it was set up as a rogue mining camp in the Dakota territory during the 1800s, integrity and frankness have become hallmarks at a museum, which should be the starting point for tourists who truly want to appreciate Deadwood and its colourful, controversial history.

First-time tourists arrive for the main street stroll, where historical re-enactors stage gunfights with quick storylines, check out where legendary Wild Bill Hickok held his dead man’s poker hand of black aces and eights, and maybe make the arduous trek to Mount Moriah Cemetery to view the graves of Wild Bill, his adoring Calamity Jane and sheriff Seth Bullock. Those without children in tow will find scores of casinos, where poker remains the big draw amid the enticing din of modern slot machines. Continue Reading →

SOUTH DAKOTA LEGENDS: The Painted Ladies of Deadwood Gulch

“Working girls” in Deadwood were as prominent a fixture as that of the many miners in the bustling boom camp. Though these “ladies”most likely arrived almost as soon as the first man, the first record of prostitutes coming to Deadwood was in July, 1876.

Arriving with Charlie Utter’s wagon train, along with Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, were several “professional” women, including two madams who went by the names of Dirty Em and Madam Mustachio. The two seasoned veterans had previously worked in many of the California and Nevada mining camps. The miners were so pleased to see the women that they lined up along the street and cheered.

A thriving industry in the camp dominated almost entirely by men, in 1876, it was estimated that approximately 90% of women of the camp were “painted ladies.” Difficult for a woman to make a living in the American West during these times, many single women or those who had lost husbands or fathers to provide for them were almost forced into prostitution in order to support themselves. Continue Reading →