Friends of Coal
Kentucky “Friends of Coal Tag” Unveiling – Gov. Steve Beshear Creative Commons

A while ago I decided to do some investigating on who or what “Friends of Coal” was. What I found surprised me (well… not really).

Friends of Coal wasn’t a group of coal miners and their families working to help one another during hard times. It is an organization created and maintained by coal companies through their “coal associations,” or, in other worlds, organizations where coal companies pool their money and efforts to promote their industry and lobby our politicians.

Think of it sort of like a union for the coal companies.

I found all of this out by going to the West Virginia Coal Association’s website, the people behind Friends of Coal. I looked around until I found their membership roster and it wasn’t a bunch of coal miners and churches.

Look for yourself:

West Virginia Coal Association

Kentucky Coal Association

Virginia Mining Association

National Mining Association

So if I’m not supporting coal miners, who or what am I supporting?

If you are supporting Friends of Coal, you are supporting the coal companies and their interests. At first, you might think that’s a good thing, but not necessarily.  Here are a few reasons to reconsider your support.

1. Coal companies aren’t creating jobs, they are killing them.

Coal companies are constantly seeking to reduce labor overhead in the form of wages, benefits, and workman’s compensation insurance. The best way to do this is through mechanizing their operations and letting big machinery take over the jobs of coal miners. This would explain why coal production has reached record highs while coal mining employment has been in a near constant decline. They also require their employees to work mandatory overtime and hire temp laborers to get the same amount of work with fewer people.


2. Coal companies already have a lot of help.

If you start digging around you’ll find out these company funded coal associations have well paid lobbyist who live and work full time in state capitals and in Washington DC. They also have lawyers on retainer (or in other words, full time lawyers), living and working in these places. There is even the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, a vast organization of lawyers,  law firms, and law schools dedicated to these industries. Take a look through their website and tell me how a poor coal miner or Appalachian land owner has a chance to win against these Goliaths?
I also have to mention this one.  In October 2013, in an investigation by ABC News, it was finally revealed that coal companies had been paying doctors at Johns Hopkins University to read x-rays for black lung claim appeals. The result—nearly all claims were denied.

So, for the coal industry, printing stickers and selling license plated is simply icing on the cake. The extra public support ensures the politicians they’ve spent years pouring money into are continually voted back into office.

 3. Coal Companies fight for their profits, not for the coal miner’s well being.

Safety costs money and production. In order to be safe, miners have to take time to properly assess situations. They have to take time to in stall more roof bolts, properly position equipment, ensure ventilation is right, etc. Safety also requires additional equipment that must be purchased and maintained. It is also important to do proper maintenance on all of the machinery so that it remains in safe operating order. All of this comes at the expense of time and money for the company. The more safety, the less profit, and the coal companies actively seek to block new safety legislation and reduce the effectiveness of existing laws.  If you don’t believe me, continue reading.
In this article in the WV Gazette it was reported how the West Virginia Coal Association sat right across from the widow and infant son of a fallen coal miner, listened to her plead for them to adopt proximity detection systems on continuous miners that would save coal miner’s lives, only to have the West Virginia Coal Association vote against the proposal.

In this article on the WV Legislature website, the West Virginia Coal Association is called out for its support of bill that would gut mine safety legislation in the state, and here, the Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association speaks against MSHA’s new rules that could end black lung. Their reason for objecting? Costs to the industry.

4. Coal associations are working to make sure our kids will mine their coal.

The coal associations, and the companies that comprise them, are looking for the next generation of coal miners. It says so in the the  Friends of Coal Mission Statement:  “By working together, we can provide good jobs and benefits for future generations, which will keep our children and grandchildren close to home.”

They are influencing our children at early ages through company funded school programs such as “Coal in the Classroom” and  Coal Education Resources and Development of Southern West Virginia ( with lesson plans that neglect to tell about many coal mine disasters and their causes, the bloody labor struggles against company hired mercenaries, and so on. They have even rewritten the history of early mining and coal camp life to sound better than sharecropping and working in northern factories.

People must realize that coal companies and their organizations are not here for our benefit. Their primary goal is to gain support and promote legislation that makes it easier for them to rip coal out of the ground no matter the cost to miners or the people living nearby.


If you spend a little time following the links I provided throughout this page, you’ll find as I have, that beneath the surface of the license plates and stickers, the banners and billboards, it’s all about the coal companies doing what they’ve always done—protecting their interests while they ship billions of dollars of coal out of the mountains. In turn, the people of Appalachia are left with broken backs, choked lungs, and no decent economy to speak of (along with pain medication abuse running rampant among our youth, a lack of clean water and badly damaged road infrastructure.)

If we are to have any hope of raising our Appalachian home out of the crippling poverty and ill health that has plagued us for well over a century, we must start by realizing the cause and fighting to stop it.

I can tell you without any hesitation that supporting Friends of Coal is one of the worst things someone can do for coal miners and their families, and well, anyone else living in the coalfields.

Additional Reading:

A Coal Miner’s Health: Short Term Gains and Long Term loss

The Coal Industry in Our Public Schools

Mining, Diesel Particulate Matter, & Cancer

Faces of Coal

Trump Just Signed Away Underground Coal Mining Jobs



  1. A more truthful name would be Friends of Coal Owners. Just as the real War on Coal is a War on Coal Miners perpetuated for more than 150 years by coal mine operators. Coal mine owners are not friends of coal miners, they are friends only of themselves and the loyal politicians they buy.


  2. I must confess that I read only very little of the article prior to my comment,
    My reason for contacting Friends of coal is , I am a designer of wood and coal burning stoves and furnaces primarily for the home and shop.

    After a thirty five year time away from that line of work I have decided to start up new manufacturing in the wood and Coal burning stove and furnace line.

    It was in the mid eighties in Western Pa. where we were located and built stoves and furnaces under the trade name of black Diamond.

    I may have to find a new name since someone else has picked it up. Don’t know anything about them except there designs are not like mine.

    I have designed an excellent coal burner designed for the home and work shop.

    The home model is decorative and attractive, the workshop model,not fancy but of the same internal design and just as efficient.

    I am wanting to find out from you as to what you think the market would be for a small to mid sized stove or furnace designed to burn coal in today’s less friendly political environment as far as coal is concerned.

    My Name is Patrick Fogarty and cell number is 706 934 7573 . I am located in North West Georgia.

    Would love to hear from anyone in your organization that might understand what I am looking for and has some knowledge of the existing or potential Market for home coal burning stoves.
    as a small manufacturer we are able to offer customers modifications such as provisions for heating domestic hot water and cabinets surrounding cast or steel components that are hot enough to burn fingers should a child touch the stove. Also baking ovens and cooking surfaces with removable plates as found on conventional coal or wood burning stoves .

    To add to our appeal our stoves are decorative and we see them as a piece of household furniture as well as a heat source.

    There are manufacturers of coal stoves but few are of our design nor are able to offer features as dictated by the customer..

    Patrick Fogarty
    Black Diamond Stoves
    Red Bank Tennessee


  3. You’ve put your finger on some of the problems with coal.
    I’ve put together a short music video that looks sympathetically at the life of coal mining from the viewpoint of the family. Hope you’ll take a look.


  4. Coal companies provide coal mining jobs. If you don’t own your own business, you’re always working to make someone else rich. With coal mining, you’re also making a good living. So what if they’re wanting our youth to mine their coal and are influencing through funded school programs. It’s better than these liberal teachers indoctrinating them with their bullshit to think that everything should be handed to them for free!


    1. It IS a good job if you don’t mind getting cancer or black lung and then having your worker’s compensation denied by coal owners. Those jobs are the worst in America as they kill, literally.


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