Son of a coal miner

Before 2004/2008 presidential candidate John Edwards talked about being the son of a mill worker, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Cumming, Iowa) talked about being the son of a coal miner.  Coal mining was common in Iowa in the late 1800s.  The mines were often owned by railroads, which used the coal to power locomotives.  By 1900 there were 400 coal mines operating in the state, but by the 1920s the railroads were using cheaper coal mined in other states and most Iowa homeowners were buying coal mined from Illinois because it was cleaner-burning.

According to government reports, there was active coal mining in 32 of Iowa’s 99 counties.  The Geological Survey has located 3000 mine sites in Iowa using “historic” records. 

Harkin has said his father worked at some of the dozen coal mines in south central Iowa.  Harkin has also said his father suffered from black lung disease.  Harkin has issued a statement on the latest tragedy to hit coal mining country, and mentions his father.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the statement below following an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia that killed 25 workers, with four workers still missing.  Harkin chairs both the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Labor Appropriations Subcommittee.

“My heart goes out to the family members of these 25 men who died, and of the four who are still missing, during this difficult time.  As the son of a coal miner, I know that mining towns are tight-knit communities, so my thoughts are with all of those who may have known these workers or who may have a loved one still missing because of this blast.  I join with them in hoping that the four missing workers are brought to safety. 

“The hardworking people who lost their lives deserve our best efforts to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.  I know that Secretary Solis and her team at the Department of Labor plan to pursue a full investigation, and I look forward to working closely with the Department to ensure that the affected families and communities get the answers they deserve.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.