To the Editor:
I think I have one solution to putting coal miners back to work here in Appalachia and elsewhere. This will also affect carpenters, welders, hydraulics, truck drivers and the rest of the eight jobs that are associated with the loss of each coal mining job. It’s simple; reinstate the two-acre mining permit.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s this was how a lot of mining was done here in the mountains. Many, many house and small business sites were created and a lot of people, including myself, worked on these jobs and got the experience needed to make the leap to a larger company with good pay and benefits.
The small companies that work these two-acre permits can mine coal at a much lower cost per ton. It now costs the larger companies $100 or more per ton just to put coal on the ground for resale. I, myself, own 36 acres with the mineral lease and could mine the coal cheaply, but the bond cost is so unreasonably high that I can’t even mine my own coal to support my family since I was laid off. The smallest bond available is $75,000. No small operator can pay fees like these.
I agree that there was too much abuse of these two-acre permits in the past, but now the state and federal governments have enough inspectors employed to keep up with the workload. Furthermore, the mine owners themselves have much more respect for inspectors than they did 20 or 30 years ago.
The amount of coal severance tax dollars that would arise from these jobs makes it plain to me that it is worth looking into why Virginia and West Virginia still have these two-acre house seat permits and the great state of Kentucky does not.
Every spring we are turning out equipment operators, welders, electricians, heavy equipment mechanics, engineers, and yes, businessmen and women from our vo-tech and community colleges that have no jobs here in eastern Kentucky and the rest of Appalachia. This makes absolutely no sense, because these young people and retrained underground miners have to pack up and leave as soon as they graduate.
If nothing is done here in the coal producing counties and all the people with good skills are forced to leave to find work, we will become a retail-only economy with only minimum wage jobs. And we all know there is no trickle down economy from those types of wages.
Starting these two-acre permits will certainly help the state and local governments by bringing more severance tax money back into our budgets.
The coin has two sides. Not only will some miners get back to work, so will heavy equipment dealers, coal washing plants, fuel suppliers, heavy equipment repairmen, parts dealers, and so on. We have the inspectors and I’m sure they would appreciate another mine to go to.
If I can be of any assistance or provide more information or ideas, feel free to contact me at 606-335-0382.