Underground mining is the most physically demanding, hostile work environment you can imagine.
Working amid ubiquitous dust and under frequently unstable mine roofs, handling high voltage electrical cables and constantly moving heavy equipment in confined spaces. There is also the ever-present concern about fire or a methane/coal dust explosion.
Miners need unfailing medical attention. Too many companies throughout the coalfields have well-documented histories of forsaking miners as they lay off, fail to renew collective bargaining agreements or file for bankruptcy.
Miners spent their whole lives working for health and retirement benefits, but their retirement plan will soon fail.
While enjoying bipartisan support, U.S. Senate Bill 1714 uses coal mine operator-paid reclamation fees — not taxpayer money — from the abandoned mine reclamation fund to provide health care and pensions for elderly retired miners and widows.
A defaulted pension fund, however, would be dumped into the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government agency, where taxpayers will pick up the tab and probably health care as well.
Experts believe that if the mine workers’ retirement plan defaults $1 billion would be removed from the Appalachian economy. Kentucky, an already poor state with the second most retirees, would be dealt a horrific blow.