Portfolio ~ Appalachian Coal Essay

Above and Below: Life Along the Northwest Appalachian Coal Belt

The coal mining industry once dominated the Appalachian region. However, in the late 1970’s its reign weakened with the growing promise of nuclear energy, public demands of higher environmental standards and an increasing desire for renewable fuels. Mines closed and workers moved to make a living elsewhere, leaving behind an already economically challenged region.

Recently the United States’ increasing demand for energy has resulted in a significant resurgence of the once-doomed coal industry. Coal’s revival stems from a desire for an alternative to expensive foreign oil as well as the advent of new clean coal-fired power plant technology. Many believe this will satisfy the nation’s increasing demand for electricity.

With the economic benefits of coal mining come costly effects to the environment, the health of workers and the unity of communities. This photographic essay is a glimpse into the soul of a region defined by coal, “the black diamonds” of Appalachia.

Night Stacks
Night Stacks
Steam rolls out of the stacks of the coal-fired Gavin Electric Power Plant, operated by American Electric Power Ohio in Cheshire, Ohio. The Southeast Ohio River has 18 coal-fired power plants and seven are known to be among the nation’s fifty dirtiest for sulfur dioxide or mercury emissions. There are proposals to add three to five more coal-fueled power plants in nearby Meigs County.

Pride
Pride
A coal miner bares his tattoo while working underground in the Central Appalachian Mine (CAM) in Cadiz, Ohio. CAM Ohio is the largest single employer in Cadiz, a town of 3000 people, and Ohio’s leading producer of bituminous coal. Of the current 172 employees, 80% work underground to produce about 1000 tons of coal per day. Due to the boom in demand in the past two years, CAM Ohio has invested $14 million in new equipment and expects to work the area mines for about 15 years, or until the coal runs out.

Underground
Underground
CAM Ohio underground miners operate a bolting machine used to secure the mountain above. The bolt machine operator first drives four to fifteen foot steel bolts into the mountain, then injects a tube of epoxy, a hardening resin, and finally secures the bolt with a steel plate.

Rock Dusted
Rock Dusted
Rock dust coats a miner’s hands after he finishes a shift underground at the CAM Ohio coal mine in Cadiz, Ohio. Rock dust is produced in mines by blasting, drilling and handling of rock. It is also spread over the walls of the mines where it acts as a flame retardant should a fire occur from a methane gas ignition.

Heading Underground
Heading Underground
Miner Lebi Kerner, front right, drives a buggy filled with his mining crew into the Sterling Mine near Salineville, Ohio. The Sterling Mine Company is a small family-owned business, which produced approximately 800,000 tons of coal in 2006.

Young Miner
Young Miner
Coal miner Bobby Jones, 22, of Boardman, Ohio, poses for a photo after a nine-hour shift working underground in the Sterling Mine.

Charred Memories
Charred Memories
Marsh Fork High School, built as a two-room school in 1925, relocated to this site in 1948. The school, initially built to accommodate the local coal mining population’s children, closed in 2003, and its students were moved to neighboring Liberty High School. The empty Marsh Fork High was destroyed by a fire set by arsonists in December of 2005.

Enlist
Enlist
Southeast Ohio Army recruiter Sgt. Chad Wasileski speaks to a Nelsonville High School student during lunch. Many enlistees come from rural areas where employment opportunities are scarce. Wasileski’s Southeast Ohio office exceeded its projection for 2006, hitting 120% of the recruitment goal.

Smoke Break
Smoke Break
Jamey Schwalvach, 18, one month pregnant, shares a smoke with her mother moments before she walks down the aisle to be married. Jamey married her high school sweetheart Andy Addington, 20, in a small wedding ceremony held in Mc Arthur, Ohio. “I know I shouldn’t smoke with the baby,” Jamey says, “but today is too stressful. I wish my brother was here.” Her older brother is serving in Iraq.

Warm Morning
Warm Morning
Jazzalee Molineau, 11, warms herself by a coal-burning stove on a cold Sunday morning before getting ready for church in Annawalt, West Virginia. Many residents of Appalachia still use coal stoves to keep warm in the harsh winter months. Jazzalee’s mother, Janice Molineau, is West Virginia’s first female and first African-American mine inspector.

Glow
Glow
The Gavin Power Plant, owned by American Electric Power Ohio, operates in the background behind an abandoned home. AEP Ohio bought the village of Cheshire, Ohio, for $20 million in the spring of 2002. In return for the buyout, the 221 residents left and signed agreements promising not to sue the utility company for any damage to their health. The purchase came two months after federal health experts confirmed that blue sulfuric clouds from one of the company’s coal-fueled plants endangered residents of the town.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: