The West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey provides an interactive map of underground and surface coal mining activity in West Virginia. The map shows areas of active and historical coal mining in both underground and surface mines, with separate colors for auger and highwall mining.
On a wintry night in 2010 a few months before 29 men were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, the coal boss, Don Blankenship – then one of the richest and most powerful men in West Virginia – squared up to Robert Kennedy Jr in a public debate about destructive mining practices and climate change.
Why have Kentucky and West Virginia lost 38,000 coal jobs since 1983? For one, coal mining has become increasingly automated in recent decades, particularly as companies have shifted to techniques such as mountaintop-removal mining, which are less labor intensive.