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Coal miners are part of W.Va.'s ecosystem

On Monday, a number of people — some local, some from across the country — began re-

enacting a 50-mile march from Marmet to Blair Mountain in Logan County.

It was the scene of a violent 1921 clash between coal company employees, local militiamen and thousands of hard-used miners intent on unionizing the coalfields. Federal troops were activated to impose order.

As the Daily Mail's Zack Harold reported Thursday, some of the marchers sought to co-opt this experience so dear to the United Mine Workers of America.

Some marchers oppose mountaintop removal

mining. Others hate coal however it is mined.

It's not too bright to be disrespectful to people who mine coal for a living, and UMW President Cecil Roberts deftly drew a line. The UMW did not participate in the march to its own shrine, although some members did as individuals.

As Roberts said in a column earlier this year, "Blair Mountain is as close to sacred ground as there is for the UMW. Though we may not physically own the mountain's land, its legacy is ours. We strongly support its preservation . . . ."

But the union remains as dedicated as it was in 1921 to its members' interests in working safely to feed their families.

That interest is simply of no consequence to many visitors from elsewhere, some of whom are quite

ignorant of the tradeoffs coalfield residents face. Some argue that surface mining should be outlawed so more miners can work underground.

As coalfield residents know, some valuable seams can't be mined that way, and deep mining is a good deal more hazardous.

The union supports responsible mountaintop removal mining where it is appropriate.

Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources now own much of Blair Mountain, which apparently could be profitably mined. The union hopes it will not be.

But here's to Roberts for supplying the perspective many thoughtless tourists lack:

West Virginia coal miners matter, too.

People who want to make eco-observations must take them into consideration as well.


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