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April 6th, 2010
07:21 PM ET

In West Virgina, a battle over mountaintop mining

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/04/06/mine.disaster.safety/t1main.big.branch.mine.gi.jpg caption="The West Virginia mine explosion on April 5 killed at least 25 people." width=300 height=169]

Sophia Yan
TIME

Pass through the handful of acres that make up Lindytown, W. Va., and you'll see empty houses, a boarded-up church, a town too minor to warrant its own post office. In this forgotten southern corner of the state, even the pine trees look sad.

But this desolate spot, like so many other abandoned small towns in Appalachia, is a gateway to hidden wealth. Deep within Boone County are rich seams of coal, holding some 3.6 billion tons of the black stuff and millions in profits — and much of it sits in Cherry Pond Mountain, a few miles from Lindytown. The largest coal-mining company in the region — Massey Energy, based in Richmond, Va. — has its eye on it.

Loud blasting began years ago. Massey and other large coal-producing companies like Patriot Coal, in St. Louis, employ a particularly destructive form of excavation called mountaintop mining, which exposes entire coal seams by blowing off a mountain's summit; used mostly in Appalachia, such mining produces 130 millions tons of coal in the region per year. It's less popular in other coal-rich spots such as Texas, where the coal is deeper underground and requires a different kind of mining to unearth. Coal companies say mountaintop mining is also cheaper than traditional mining: rather than burrowing under or digging through the "overburden" (the soil, trees and rock that lie on top of coal seams), which requires lots of manpower and expensive machinery, all you need to hit black gold in Appalachia are some explosives.

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Filed under: Mine Blast
April 6th, 2010
07:09 PM ET

Reaction to mine disasters: Wake-up calls, cries for action

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/04/06/mine.disaster.safety/story.mine.trooper.afp.gi.jpg
caption="A West Virginia state police car is parked Tuesday outside the coal mine where Monday's fatal blast happened." width=300 height=169]

CNN

An explosion at a Massey Energy Co. coal mine in West Virginia killed at least 25 workers, the deadliest U.S. mining disaster in 25 years. It came days after five miners were killed and 115 were rescued in northern China when a rush of underground water flooded the Wangjialing coal mine.

The two recent disasters on opposite sides of the world raise these questions – why do these incidents keep happening, when will we learn from them and how can we stop them?

For Davitt McAteer, the former head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration, the answer is clear. McAteer, who investigated the 2006 Sago mine disaster, also in West Virginia, said the government and coal companies must have more transparency regarding mine safety issues, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

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Filed under: Mine Blast
April 6th, 2010
04:49 PM ET

Photo Gallery: Coal mine explosion in West Virginia

AC360°

Twenty-five miners were killed during an explosion at the Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine on Monday April 5. The accident was the worst mining disaster in the United States in 25 years.


A section on the Upper Big Branch Mine on April 6, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia. Rescue efforts for four miners that remain unaccounted for have been suspended due to conditions underground.


Families leave near a section of the Upper Big Branch Mine on April on April 6, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia.


Michelle McKinney's father, Benny Willingham, died in yesterday's mine explosion, near a section of the Upper Big Branch Mine on April 6, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia.


West Virginia State Highway Patrol officers talk to one another near a section of the Upper Big Branch Mine on April on April 6.


Kevin Stricklin (L), an administrator with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, speaks alongside West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin at a press conference.


A note is posted at Marsh Fork Worship Center in Eunice, West Virginia, near the Upper Big Branch coal mine.

April 6th, 2010
02:05 PM ET

Massey Energy stock sinks 11% after mine explosion

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/04/06/west.virginia.mine.explosion/smlvid.mine.rescue.wchs.jpg caption="An explosion at one of Massey Energy's coal mines in West Virginia killed at least 25 workers and left 4 missing." width=300 height=169]

Julianne Pepitone
CNN Money

Shares of Massey Energy plunged more than 8% Tuesday, one day after an explosion at one of the company's coal mines in West Virginia killed at least 25 workers and left 4 missing.

The blast took place at the Upper Big Branch Mine, about 30 miles south of Charleston, during a shift change Monday afternoon.

Massey (MEE) stock was down 11% at 1:15 p.m. ET Tuesday. Still, the company's shares are up almost 20% year-to-date. Massey's headquarters are in Richmond, and the company operates 44 mines, making it the fourth largest coal company in the U.S.

The cause of the explosion, the deadliest U.S. mining disaster in 25 years, was unknown Tuesday.

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April 6th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

Video: 'One of a kind'

John Roberts | BIO
Anchor, American Morning


Filed under: John Roberts • Mine Blast
April 6th, 2010
11:36 AM ET

Video: What is long wall mining?

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent


Filed under: Mine Blast • Tom Foreman
April 6th, 2010
10:08 AM ET

Search for miners after deadly blast could take days

John Roberts | BIO
Anchor, American Morning

It could take up to two days to drill bore holes into a sprawling West Virginia coal mine, scene of a massive blast that left at least 25 miners dead, a mining official said Tuesday.

Bulldozers will be used to clear a path through the hills and bring in equipment to reach the affected part of the Upper Big Branch Mine, Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said.

The holes will be drilled 1,200 feet down to help ventilate the mine and collect samples. Rescue crews early Tuesday halted their efforts to reach four miners still unaccounted for, as concentrations of methane and carbon monoxide posed a safety risk, Stricklin said.

"We're hoping to bulldoze our way up there today," he said. "And probably a good guesstimate would be about two days, to get the bore hole into the mine."

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April 6th, 2010
05:50 AM ET

Video: Threats facing miners

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor


Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Mine Blast
April 6th, 2010
05:49 AM ET

Video: Chaotic scene at mine

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor


Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Mine Blast
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