While states like West Virginia and Kentucky have been hit hard by the coal industry’s decline, the picture for coal mining out west has been somewhat brighter. In Wyoming and Montana, it’s mostly been business as usual—which is why some coal miners from West Virginia and Kentucky have decided to try their luck in Big Sky Country. Our partners at Inside Energy talked to one miner who made the trip. Here’s his story in his own words.
My name is Daniel Kent Parrish. I’m originally from Ansted, West Virginia. I grew up in a coal mining area in Fayette County. I’m a third-generation coal miner. My grandfather and father were what they call deep miners—they were underground. And I got into the coal mining industry—surface mines—in 2010.
I was petrified of all this big equipment moving around. You’re backing down long narrow roads—it’s pretty dangerous. Some of your best money in southern West Virginia is in the coal mining industry. Back there, they haul coal out by the truckloads. Some mines are big enough where they can handle trains.
As a kid growing up, everyone has the Tonka toys. You’re just a grown-up driving a big Tonka toy. That’s about what it amounts to.
LISTEN: “A Coal Miner’s Story”
Southern West Virginia has really been hit hard lately with the layoffs, the cutbacks, the WARN notices. We had the opportunity to come to Wyoming. I came out here after two WARN notices and a 10 percent pay cut.
I’ve always heard about Wyoming and Montana—always heard it was beautiful. I was told, Go to Wyoming! There’s a woman hiding behind every tree. And we get here and there’s no trees! The roughest part about getting out to Wyoming was 1,700 miles and three days of driving with a U-Haul.
It just blew me away: the depth of the pits. The coal seams [are] 75 to 100 feet. If we hit a six-foot seam back home, we thought we hit the motherload.
I don’t know much about climate change and stuff like that. I’ll keep getting up and going to work every day, ‘til they tell me different. I don’t see Wyoming taking a hit like West Virginia has taken a hit. I plan on staying.
To read more on the coal mining industry in Wyoming, check out “Wyoming Town Built On Coal Contemplates Its Future” from our partners at Inside Energy.