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.