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Coal Mine

Southeastern Oklahoma is home to our state's timber industry, but what's underground also energizes our economy. We take an indepth look at Oklahoma's coal mining industry.
Coal Mine

Coal mine workers

Show Dates

Show 0832: Coal Mine

Air date: August 10, 2008

 

Transcript

Rob: Well southeastern Oklahoma is probably best known as home to our state's timber industry. But what's underground also energizes our economy. Brian Bendele takes an in-depth look at Oklahoma's coal mining industry.

Brian: It may not be glamorous, but coal mining is big money for many small communities in southeastern Oklahoma.

Bobby Meadows: It's very important; most of our employees live in Spiro or Poteau.

Brian: Bobby Meadows is the superintendent of the South Central Coal Company in Spiro, Oklahoma, and

says workers travel 5,000 feet underground and mine over 32,000 tons of this dark concentrated fuel source, each month.

Meadows: Well, all the surface coal that's close to the surface has already been mined in this area.

The only way to get it now, without moving so much overburden, is to mine it underground.

Brian: But not so, in nearby Stigler, where mining is done above ground, in strip mines.

Gene Culpepper: We run 24/7. Now, we might shut down for Christmas, but that's about it.

Brian: Superintendent, Gene Culpepper, says even though this process uses large machines to move

massive amounts of rock and debris, they employ just as many, if not more, than the underground mines.

Culpepper: The total employment here probably runs 70-80 people.

Brian: The coal produced in both mines is sold to the local A E S Power Plant and is used to generate power for much of southeastern Oklahoma.

Culpepper: It's Oklahoma. Everything we've got here is Oklahoman.

Brian: In fact, every 8 out of 9 tons is used to produce electricity, and the reason Oklahoma

coal mines employ over 300 people.

Gary Geralds: We have a very active coal mining industry in Oklahoma, even though it is not huge,

compared to previous numbers, we still have 8 active mines in the state.

Brian: Gary Geralds is a mining consultant and says for every coalmining job, there are at least 10

additional jobs provided throughout the state. But it isn't an easy profession to get into; every person that works in the mines must partake in rigorous training.

Geralds: When I say trained, we're not talking just an hour; we're talking about 8, 9, 10 hours.

The underground mines, we actually need a 40-hour training class, before they are allowed to go

to work the first day.

Brian: Training that's led to fewer accidents. Kent Towne is with the Kiamichi Technology

Center, in Stigler.

Kent Towne: Over the last 5 years, we averaged around 2500 hours a year of safety training to

over 250 companies within southeastern Oklahoma.

Brian: Work that gives miners peace of mind.

Towne: They are able to, you know, feel like they go to work, they're confident, go to work each

day, they're going to come home in one piece, safe, to their families.

Brian: And it's that peace of mind, and the opportunity to have good paying jobs close to home, that is keeping many of the state's rural communities alive and viable.

Rob: Now some believe the U S's large coal reserves could help alleviate our dependence on foreign oil. In World War II, the Germans used coal-based fuel to power their vehicles.