After Coal Team Explores Tower Mine and Cynon Valley, Wales

This set of production photos features mines in the Cynon Valley of Wales.  We visited the old Tower Mine, the only worker owned mine in Wales.  The mine was first opened in the 1950’s.  Faced with the mines closure in 1995, a group of miners bought Tower and operated the mine until 2008.   We also visited a newly opened underground mine nearby, and interviewed apprentice miners.

What Does Transition Look Like? Oral History Project Follows Former Miners

Our contributing blogger this week is Dr. Lou Martin, Assistant Professor of History at Chatham University. If you are interested in contributing to the After Coal blog, please e-mail aftercoalfilm@gmail.com. Enjoy! As a historian, I am always more comfortable studying the 1950s than the present, let alone the future.  But as I have become involved in efforts to save Blair Mountain—one of West Virginia’s most important historic sites—I have come face-to-face with miners and their families who will suffer as we transition away from burning coal.  Last summer at a protest against mountaintop removal, one coal miner asked, “If you close down the mines, what do I do?” Having studied the 1950s and 1960s in West Virginia, I know that coal miners at that time were just as likely to lose their job to mechanization or mine closure as they were to retire with a pension.  While miners and their families have […]

What is Community Regeneration?

The After Coal team visited with Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation at the Ebbw Vale Steel Works in Wales. Two miles of buildings that once employed 10,000 people are now the site of a massive regeneration effort. A new hospital, college, and eco-friendly housing units are all part of the plan for the once bustling valley. Winckler explained that the Bevan Foundation seeks solutions to poverty and social exclusion through research, idea exchanges, and public policy recommendations.  Her perspective on regeneration outlines the complex decision making that faces community leaders and policy makers in deindustrialized places. Winckler: “Regeneration is one of those words that means a lot of different things depending on who you talk to.  On one extreme, regeneration can be described as ethical property development. So, you would take a rundown area (very often an urban area) and provide a mixture of incentives and public sector support. […]

A Glimpse at Our Interview With John Gaventa

“Communities in Appalachia and Wales can play a really important part in the movement for rethinking what we mean by economic development.” — John Gaventa John Gaventa started a video exchange between coal miners in Appalachia and Wales in 1974.  The After Coal project owes a huge debt to his groundbreaking work.  Gaventa is currently director of the Coady International Institute   at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. We were lucky to catch him in Virginia last week and record an interview for After Coal.  Here is a glimpse at his thoughts: “Change is an inevitable part of mining communities.  This doesn’t mean that we give up on these communities.  It means we need to think about using local strengths to create a different kind of sustainable economy.  The question is not: Coal versus no coal.  The question is:  How do we use community assets such as […]

No Rest: Welsh-Appalachian Exchange Continues at Cumberland River Headwaters

Compiled by Angela Wiley and Tom Hansell “It looks to me as if the history of the coal industry in Kentucky has followed the same lines as the coal industry in Wales. We’ve all had a hard time.” — Terry Thomas, former Vice-President of National Union of Mine Workers in Wales Carl Shoupe and Terry Thomas experienced the boom and bust of the coal industry on different continents in the late twentieth century. In the fall of 2012, former union leader Thomas traveled nearly 4,000 miles from the South Wales coalfields to “Bloody Harlan”, Kentucky. As Shoupe and Thomas walked through the town of Benham, Kentucky, they let their conversation wander like the curving roads of Appalachia. Their conversation continued a cultural exchange spanning decades — from the bitter mine strikes of the 1970’s to a period of uncertain transition on both sides of the Atlantic.  The discussion circled back […]

WMMT Features After Coal Production Team

New statistics released by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet show a staggering drop in coal production and a sharp rise in unemployment in the southeastern coalfields, particularly in Letcher, Harlan, Knott and Perry counties.  According to the report, “Eastern Kentucky coal production decreased in 2012 by 27.6 percent from 2011 to 49.4 million tons — the lowest level since 1965. Eastern Kentucky production has declined by 53.5 percent since the year 2000, and by 62.3 percent since peaking at 131 million tons in 1990.” Over 4,000 eastern Kentucky miners have lost their jobs since 2011, and many fear the coal jobs aren’t coming back, leaving many to ask the question, what comes next?  Scholars at Appalachian State University think there are lessons to be learned from South Wales, a major coal producing region which faced a similar decline over a quarter century ago.  WMMT’s Sylvia Ryerson has this report.