The High Cost of Mining for Coal

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BANDYTOWN, W. Va -- Funerals began, Friday, for some of the 25 workers killed in a West Virginia mine blast earlier this week.

Meanwhile, there was another setback for rescue teams trying to find four men still missing. Smoke deep in the mine forced crews to retreat for the third time since Monday's tragic event.

Rescuers have not been able to reach the chamber where they hope the men are. Cameras dropped down were also of little use.

Officials hope teams can begin efforts again late Friday afternoon and should reach the chamber in three or four hours.

Although coal is king in West Virginia and there is a vast amount of support for the coal industry, such tragedies highlight the high price miners and residents living near the mines pay with their health and quality of life.

One resident, Donna Jarrell loves the mountains, but fears coal fires that burn night and day in the hills surrounding her home are making her and her children sick.

"My main concern is the air that we're breathing in our community," Jarrell said. "We got blasting going on, my house shakes, sometimes. "My son has nose bleeds a lot, we all have headaches."

"That is a mine seam on fire," Jarrell said, indicating a trail of smoke rising in the distance. "It's a coal seam burning with methane gas."

"It's bad, it's bad, it's going to kill all of us," warned Bandytown resident Leo Cook. "It's got my wife on oxygen 10 years now. She can't get on the porch to sit and talk."

David vs. Goliath

In Bandytown, residents describe their fight as David versus Goliath. But many residents are afraid to go on camera for fear of backlash from the coal company.

"I feel like I'm somebody that can't fight against the coal mines," Jarrell said. "We're a small community, and this is a billion dollar industry."

In Lindytown, the homes are all boarded up. Massey Energy Co. bought nearly everyone out so they can mine coal on both sides of the road.

"They had to sign a release form, that later on in life, if they had any health problems that occurred that they couldn't press charges against Massey Energy," Jarrell said.

Gov. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va, says he is aware of the coal fires on the mountain, but does not know if they pose any serious health risks.

"I fly over it quite a bit," Manchin said. "I've seen it, it's unbelievable. You'd think there would have to be a way and they have not found a way or how to put it out."

Prioritizing 'The Bottom Line'

Massey Energy's CEO Don Blankenship has a reputation for focusing more on the bottom line than on people. Even with the worst mine disaster in more than two decades occurring at his mine, he says you have to look at the big picture.

"It's a dangerous business, but if you look at it over the years and with statistics it's not so dangerous as people think," Blankenship said. "But when it happens it tends to come in larger numbers and it tends to be dramatic."

As for Jarrell, she is hoping the media spotlight now on the mine disaster will bring some relief to their problems as well..

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