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Coal Miner Job Description, Career as a Coal Miner, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

miners mining operator machine

Education and Training: None

Salary: Average—$21.57 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Coal is used as fuel and in the production of steel and plastics. Raw coal is found in deposits in the earth. Coal miners bring coal to the surface. They transport coal to preparation plants where preparation plant operators process the raw coal according to buyers' needs. Miners also work to ensure mine safety.

The main types of coal are bituminous (soft coal), anthracite (hard coal), and subbituminous coal. Bituminous coal is very common and has several uses, while subbituminous coals like peat have limited uses. The use of anthracite is declining. Coal is mined in different ways depending on where the deposits are found. Miners extract coal from deposits at or near ground level using the surface mining method. Surface mining crews remove the earth that covers the coal and gradually scoop out the coal. In areas where coal deposits are deep underground, miners dig tunnels into the earth and use one of three methods of underground mining: conventional, continuous, or longwall mining.

In conventional mining the cutting machine operator uses a long electric chain saw to slice a strip under the coal deposit. Slicing along the bottom of the coal seam helps control where the fragments fall when miners blast the coal deposit. Then the drilling machine operator drills holes into the coal deposit. The shot firer fills these holes with explosives. After the explosion loosens the coal, the loading machine operator dumps scooped-up coal onto conveyor belts or into small cars run by the shuttle car operator. From there the coal is transported to a A coal miner operates mining equipment. (© Karen Kasmauski/Corbis.) main conveyor or to mine cars. The cars take it to the surface in skips (huge buckets) or by another conveyor.

In contrast, continuous mining does not use drilling or blasting. The continuous mining machine operator uses a machine that tears out the coal and loads it onto a conveyor or shuttle car. In longwall mining the longwall machine operator first strengthens the roof of the mine with special jacks. Then the operator uses a set of machines to cut coal and dump it onto a conveyor.

Some miners do not actually dig out coal. Their job is to protect other workers from hazards or to build tunnels that make digging possible. Before miners begin working underground, the fire boss checks the work area for dangerous gases, a good air supply, and safe roof support. The rock dust machine operator sprays walls and floors with limestone to lessen the chance of coal dust exploding or causing breathing problems. Stopping builders put up walls and other structures to direct air into work areas.

Strip mining is used in areas where a great deal of earth is covering the deposit. This earth, or overburden, is drilled and then blasted. Then the overburden stripping operator or dragline operator removes the dirt that covers the coal. The coal loading machine operator tears out the coal and dumps it onto trucks for shipment to the preparation plant. In another type of mine, auger mines, the rotary auger operator drills the coal from the side of hills. Tractor operators driving bulldozers move earth or pull out boulders and other large objects. Helpers also take part in the work. When machines break down, fitters perform the repairs.

At the preparation plant workers remove rocks and other debris from the coal before washing, sorting, and blending. Some preparation plants employ only one worker who oversees machines that do the work automatically. This worker is the preparation plant central control operator. In less modern plants wash box attendants run machines that sort coal by size and remove impurities. The separation tender operates a machine that further cleans the coal with water.

Education and Training Requirements

Most miners learn their work on the job by helping experienced miners. Nevertheless, formal training is becoming more important, because miners are starting to use more complex machines and methods. As a result of these changes, mining companies offer special courses to their workers. Beginning miners can start in training mines where they learn the skills safely, or they can go through a classroom program before they begin work in mines.

Often companies prefer to hire those who already have training in mining methods. Some colleges, especially those in mining regions, offer courses in mining methods. Interested students may earn a certificate in mine studies in one year or an associate degree in two years. Usually the study programs do not require a high school diploma. However, candidates may have to pass a basic skills test in math and English.

An underground miner must be able to work in cramped spaces, have good reflexes, and be in good health. Miners should be able to work well with others. Many states require miners to be at least eighteen years old, but workers under eighteen can fill aboveground and office jobs.

Getting the Job

Apply directly to the hiring office of a mining company. Many new applicants come from mining families and know something about the job before they start. The more an applicant knows, the better the chances of being hired.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced workers may advance to jobs in the mine that offer higher pay. A few may become supervisors.

Through the year 2012 the employment opportunities in this field are expected to decline by fifteen percent as the use of coal as an energy resource decreases. Many utilities and manufacturing industries are exploring energy alternatives as a result of stricter environmental regulations.

Working Conditions

Underground mines are cold, noisy, damp, and dark. Sometimes water collects on the mine floor. Most mine areas are lighted only by lamps attached to miners' helmets. Miners may have to work on their hands and knees or lie down to reach some coal seams. The work is physically strenuous.

Although conditions are safer now, accidents sometimes occur, so miners must always be alert. Constant breathing of coal dust may cause lung disorders such as "black lung," or pneumoconiosis.

On the average miners work a forty-hour week. Underground miners work a few more hours a week than surface miners because of the time spent traveling to and from the surface of the mine. Many miners belong to labor unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Coal miners, on average, earn $21.57 per hour, depending on job, experience, and geographical location. Overall, underground miners earn more than surface miners.

Where to Go for More Information

National Mining Association
101 Constitution Ave. NW, Suite 500 East
Washington, DC 20001-2133
(202) 463-2600
http://www.nma.org

Mine Safety and Health Association
1100 Wilson Blvd., 21st Floor
Arlington, VA 222090-3939
(202) 693-9400
http://www.msha.gov

United Mine Workers of America
8315 Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 208-7200
http://www.umwa.org

Unionized mine workers receive paid holidays and vacations, personal and sick leave, and retirement funds.

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about 8 years ago

These boys do a very hard job that many others would be not just unwilling but unable to do I think you are an incredibly rude man that should have put more thought into his words.

Maybe you could spend a week actually mining rather than sitting back taking notes before you judge how hard/simple a task is, easy to pass judgement from a nice clean office just you and your pen...



And to you Mr Anonymous do you drive a car or fly at all? like to keep warm in the winter? maybe you should just say thankyou for what you take for granted.

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over 8 years ago

Ok city boy you seem to be very educated why dont you go out there and find us another way?

oh p.s. I hope you feel bad about yourself

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about 6 years ago

I am interested in coal mining/mining. Although I have been a public school teacher for the past 15 years, previous experience included labor and farm/zoo work. I am good with my hands and like the opportunity which many people might be afraid. Plus, I understand the pay is good.

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over 7 years ago

I dont wanna get into these quarrels, but i wanna ask a question : is there mining area in the USA? is there any coal in the USA?? why do they come to my country to finish up our coal??

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about 6 years ago

this site is awesome! i got all my info for my project from here and i learned a lot thank you to all who put it together. much appreciated

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about 8 years ago

These boys do a very hard job that many others would be not just unwilling but unable to do I think you are an incredibly rude man that should have put more thought into his words

Maybe you could spend a week actually mining rather than sitting back taking notes before you judge how hard/simple a task is, easy to pass judgement from a nice clean office just you and your pen...



And as for Mr Anonymous what are you hiding from? oh and do you drive a car? ever fly? dont be so quick to judge.

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almost 9 years ago

Yeah...this article is ridiculous. Being a coal miner is the best decision i've ever made. It's a wonderful career that i'm proud to be a part of. The demand for QUALIFIED workers is only going to grow with the need for coal in all areas of the country. This page is baloney and needs to be edited. I love what i do and this is what i am.

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almost 9 years ago

i'm sorry but this page is NOT TRUE. the outlook for a coal miner is very good, and there is training requirements. you have to take a certified course and you have to take an examination. they dont just send a random person into a mine with no training. and the employment opprutinites are supposed to expand because the average age of a coal miner is 55 and they are going to retire so that means MORE JOBS!!!! dont believe everything you hear. Being a coal miner is awesome. Its more than a job its a way of life.

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about 4 years ago

these city people are unaware of how hard and dangerous coal mining really is. i bet they couldent do it if they tried, they would get themselves killed.

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about 5 years ago

anyone that can send me any info on coal mining in wv will be appreciated airiks_tattoos@yahoo.com
thank you

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over 5 years ago

I am seriously wanting to learn about union coal mining.I would like to know: if there is a lot of travel involved,if so,do you get paid per deum,if this is stable work or seasonal,do you stay in your own home state to work,and can you even get health insurance coverage doing this phsically demanding job? I am in the union and in a totally different craft.My job is physically demanding,dirty,hot,cold,involves travel all over the country.BUT!It is seasonal work.I need a more stable income.Because I am a single mom.I am fortunate that my family keeps my son while Im away working.I love my job.But I want to buy a house.The instability of my income has made it a challenge.I am seriously considering coal mining.Would like peeps to give it to me straight on what I can expect.Thanks for the help.

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over 5 years ago

The investment into alternative power generating technologies such as gasification plants appears to be more on the radar of western countries. The use of thermal coal (steam coal) that is mostly burnt for power generation may be valid for other countries who may not be able to allocate resources and funds to alternative and more greener sources of power. Coal newsletters and coal statistics show developing economies are more likely to increase their investment into & their use of thermal coal & metallurgical coal in coming years because of coal's affordability and ability to quickly meet increasing demands for electricity and steel. Ian www.coalportal.com

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almost 7 years ago

dear anonymous,
i am an engineer by profession and a mining engineer by CHOICE.
ur comments r irrational, nd perhaps stem out of sheer ignorance or even unqualified arrogance.
just look around u with ur eyes open & and u wil SEE that everything that touches u in ur day-2-day life has been made possible by a hard working miner.
simply putting it, but for miners u would still b covering ur self with FIG LEAVES.
chithari a k

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almost 5 years ago

I have Mining Sirdar.Gastesting.Firstaid certificate and 16years working experience in coal mines iron limestone mines

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over 7 years ago

Hi! I'm a student doing research and i need to know what the average income yearly was for a coal miner in the 1950's...if anybody knows at least how to find it, can you reply please? Thanks, everyone!

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over 7 years ago

I totally agree here. Coal mining is not an easy job and it is not just some random dummy they send underground. I know several people that have college degrees that are coal miners. It is a great living and it keeps your lights on. Let the coal stop coming and see how long it takes for you to wish you had shut you ignorant mouth because you don't have any electricity.

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over 5 years ago

cd

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over 8 years ago

Okay. Jason Phillips, you can't even use correct grammar. Correction: there ARE training requirements. You sound really ignorant. Particle pollution from coal plants kills thousands a year. So with your "way of life", you are actually fueling the dirty industry of coal electricity that is killing people. I hope you feel really great about yourself.

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over 8 years ago

I for one, agree with this article and am using it as research to write an essay. Thank you very much for whoever wrote this because now i found a topic for "What is one of the worst jobs ever?". Thank you. Goodbye.

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almost 4 years ago

hai sir iam intrested in mining job..but my qualification is just 12th standard,is iam eligible for any kind of post in mines..so please let me know the details..