PART 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfY1IQyCEVk
McClure #1 Mine about 30 years ago. One of the deepest, largest, and most dangerous mines in the country.Known as a 'Hot" mine- This mine released over 3 million cubic yards of explosive methane gas per day. It had at least 1 fatality per year for every year it was open. In 1983 it made national news when it exploded and 7 were killed including the first woman killed in a mining disaster.
What you are seeing in this footage is a massive "Long-wall" machine which sheers off a shelf of coal sometimes up to 2,000 feet long at a time. The Hydraulic Jacks or 'Shields" which are constantly adjusted support the roof of this part of the mine as the machine advances. Unlike a traditional "pillar' mine, in which tunnels are cut in a honeycomb fashion, by a 'continuous miner, a longwall has cutting wheels on both ends and goes back and forth and removes football fields in a single shift. Another difference is that the roof in the area already mined (Gob) is allowed to collapse, which causes subsidence of everything above ground-streams disappear and divert underground, foundations of buildings collapse, cracks and sinkholes swallow farm animals and wildlife.
My cousin gave me this rare, never-before seen footage ten years ago, hoping I could use it to show people the brutality of coal mining-underground; -the workers are wearing no breathing protection, no ear protection, they are surrounded by dangers of electrocution, rock falls, methane explosions, being crushed to death, being ground up like meat (should they accidentally touch the conveyor belt, as was one of the many deaths in this particular mine), and a dozen other ways to die in a mine...The Upper Big Branch Mine explosion (2010) was a Long-Wall mine and the deadliest since this mine blew in 1983.
All forms of American Coal Mining are deadly, destructive, and it is completely unacceptable in the 21st century to have an average of 180 fatalities in our mines per year! the only reason for this is corporate greed. There is a special place in hell for the likes of Don Blankenship (who was head of Pittson at the time this was filmed, and responsible for the brutality, and murder during the strike in 1991- he later became famous as the head of Massey presiding over the three most recent and deadliest mine explosions; in each case found guilty of hundreds of safety violations, unpaid fines, and was infamous for his union-busting and intimidation/blacklisting of workers which sought safety and better conditions-prior to his tenure the southern coalfield had been organized for 70 years-today there are less than half a dozen union mines in the tri-state region, all the union hospitals are closed, and black-lung is at an all time high!)
God, have mercy on the few remaining miners in southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southwestern West Virginia who work the Pocahontas #3 seam; the 'highest coal seam' (6-21 ft)in the country that runs from Pennsylvania to Alabama.....I can see why so many miners perfer "low coal' (3-5 ft)...as my cousin said, "..if a rock from the roof (as pictured in part 2) falls from 3 feet, it won't hurt you, but at six feet it will kill you."
I included it in a documentary film in 2007, which was submitted to several regional groups, along with a scholarly paper on the history of mining in central appalachia that received several invites to a conferences at a Universities in the region...I suppose it got shelved and forgotten. Well here it is on YouTube for all the world to see.