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Source: NPR. Burton said pepperoni roles were a staple, along with ham and lunch meat sandwiches. Mines also now have microwaves.

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He said in his time he'd had some pretty good, inventive meals underground. Sometimes, they cooked on top of a load center, which is a power distribution box with 12, volts running through it, that everything plugs into. So for Christmas dinner, or Thanksgiving, he would bring down a pan of lasagna and put it on top of the hot load center, so that come lunch time the team would have a nice hot meal.

In the US , you don't need a college education to be paid well.

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For Burton, who never planned to be a miner, even though several family members had worked in mines, it was the pay that drew him to it. Burton said working for the coal mining company on the surface wasn't quite the same. Source: ABC News. Source: The Week. When the ceilings collapse, it actually relieves pressure in the mine. Excavation has improved also with most coal mines using machines to chisel out the coal instead of explosives. This type of mining can impinge on people who live in the area, however.

The heavy machinery can cause noise pollution , and the removal of such large amounts of coal can cause roads to crack and streams to empty. The year before, 34 people died mining, which was a record low for the US. The US had its worst ever coal mining accident in , when people died after a coal mine exploded in Monongah, West Virginia. That year, 3, people died in coal mining accidents.

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Coal mines have continued to have fires and explosions, killing hundreds of miners over the years. Burton said he would like to believe mines have gotten safer, but during times of economic hardship mines often started making cutbacks, which could be dangerous. He had his own scare in August , when he was in a mine with a good friend and the roof buried them. They were injured but they survived. Despite the danger, he said he was always going to continue working. I was going back in. I don't like to say it's part of the job, but you understand the inherent nature of the beast when you go underground.

Most guys hopefully understand things happen, that you're still dealing with mother nature underground. If you do something she don't like she's gonna let you know about it. Black lung comes from inhaling coal dust. The dust blankets the miner's airways, and when white blood cells try to break the dust particles down, they fail, and end up damaging lung tissue instead. Between and , a NPR and Frontline investigation found more than 2, coal miners had black lung in Appalachian states alone, when the federal government had only reported 99 cases across the country.

As you run back and forth with bigger machinery, it makes a lot more breathable dust that gets into the air," he said. He said mines had practices to alleviate it, like wetting down roadways, installing proper ventilation, turning on water sprays, ensuring cuttings heads were working properly, and making sure miners positioned themselves to minimize harm. They also tried to control and direct the dust. Sources : The Week , The Guardian. Source: Financial Times. They're dangerous and were banned in , but still exist in parts of the country.


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  • Stunning photos show what it's really like to work deep underground in an American coal mine.

In two-foot high tunnels, workers dig for coal for hours without taking a break. One miners' skin went hard and black because he lay for such long hours on his side digging for coal, the BBC reported. Others might move to try find work at another coal mine. If miners are too old, or in bad physical condition, they could take it as an early retirement. Search icon A magnifying glass. It indicates, "Click to perform a search". Close icon Two crossed lines that form an 'X'. It indicates a way to close an interaction, or dismiss a notification.

James Pasley. Down in a coal mine, there's no such thing as a "nine to five.

Inside a mine there's no natural light. Although Burton said with all of the technology, it's no longer as dark as once it was. When Burton started mining 17 years ago, miners brought their own clothes — typically blue jeans, a T-shirt, a belt to hold a torch and tools, and heavy boots.

Now miners wear clothing with reflective patches. Helmets protect the head, and torches light the way.


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In Poland's largest mine, Pniowek, before work begins miners cross themselves in front of Saint Barbara, the patron of miners Instead, they say, "God bless. Burton seen here said in the US, it was mostly "old timers" who had their rituals. If the left boot goes on first, that's the way it'll carry on going.

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Miners descend thousands of feet into the earth to get to the coal. Burton said getting underground was quick — it might take four minutes in an elevator. But it can take two hours, along miles of rail tracks, for miners to get to the working section of the mine. They are paid for this time. Because mines go so deep, the air pressure can be enormous.

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And while ceilings can be bolted, it's not a foolproof technique. Burton said some mines have tried to cut costs by using cheaper roof bolts, but it's counter-productive, and unsafe. There are also deadly gases in the mines, like carbon monoxide and methane. Miners no longer take canaries down to test air quality, though. To get methane out, miners pump fresh air into the mine. Unfortunately, methane is unpredictable and can billow through the mine unexpectedly. Coal mining is, and has been, a changing industry. Technology, like rock crushers and shovel swings, have replaced workers for years.

That's how employment managed to fall from , miners in to 53, in , while coal production still increased. Despite the technological advances, it's still exhausting work. Burton said quite a few tasks are repetitive and physical, like hanging power cables, and manually stacking crib blocks which provide support in the mines.


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