In the dark depths of the earth, hundreds of feet below the surface, lies one of the most valuable resources on the planet. Here in the U.S., we sit on 25% of the world's supply of coal, operating a $27.5 billion industry that employs 80,000 miners and creates countless other jobs. Today, coal is used to generate more than half the nation's electricity and in the small towns of West Virginia and Pennsylvania - life is coal. Men toil in cramped spaces doing a job their father's and grandfathers did before them. At any moment a pillar could collapse, the makeshift roof could cave-in, or trapped methane gas could cause an explosion killing everyone in the mine. Day in and day out, the job of a coal miner is one of the world's most deadly, and vital, jobs around. In this series we go underground, exploring the workings of a modern coalmine. Our miners work ten-hour shifts, often hunched over - the size of the mine limited to the size of the coal seam, some as small as 32 inches.
Each episode will feature different members of the crew. From the guys who work at the face: the mine operator, who does the actual drilling; the roof bolters, who reinforce the ‘top' after each cutting away of the coal; the buggy runners, who haul away the load; and the scoopers, who pick up the excess. Then there's the brattice builders, who construct walls and partitions in tunnel passageways to force air into the work areas, the rock-dust machine operators, who spray the mine walls and floor to hold down dust which can interfere with breathing, and the shift bosses, who oversee the whole operation. A mining crew runs like a well-oiled machine that can't risk a mistake.
We'll also explore the daily lives and the communities spawned by an industry that's been around for centuries. From the first coalmines in the 1800s, towns sprung up and thrived creating a culture of coalminers that still exists today. We'll see the families that they hardly get a chance to see, the farms they own and hope to live on, the bars and the conversations these men have topside when they admit how they feel about each other: "It's the same as family...you might hate them, but you love them." In a part of the country that's struggling economically - coal is the only industry that pays, and it pays well. The risk being worth the rewards for most who call themselves coal miners.
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