This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia. This mountain is an important site in the early struggle for coal miners’ rights. In 1921, about 7,000 coal miners marched south from Marmet, West Virginia. They wanted coal miners in southern West Virginia to join the United Mine Workers of America union. They hoped to make working conditions better for all coal miners.
When the coal miners reached Blair Mountain on August 31, a group of 3,000 coal company supporters stopped them. A fight broke out between the two groups. The coal company supporters wanted to keep miners from joining the union. The Battle of Blair Mountain lasted for 5 days. President Warren G. Harding had to send soldiers to stop it.
Blair Mountain was once a protected historical site. Today, that is no longer true. Several coal companies now have permission to mine on the mountain. If they mine it, they will likely use the mountaintop removal method. In mountaintop removal, the top of a mountain is blasted off to get to the coal underneath.
Groups who work to preserve local history do not want the mountain to be destroyed. Environmental groups are also trying to stop the mining. They are worried about how mountaintop removal will affect people’s health and the environment. However, many local coal miners and their families support mining on the mountain. They believe it would create more jobs. Others hope for a compromise. They say that coal companies should use underground mining. This kind of mining would not disturb the battlefield and would use more workers.
In June 2011, hundreds of people recreated the coal miners’ march to Blair Mountain. They wanted to convince people to protect the mountain. Other people protested the march. The future of Blair Mountain is now in the hands of the government. It will decide if the mountain should be protected again.