responders. Heavy trucks hauling coal can damage roads and cause deaths or injuries in accidents.

Workforce and Education

Employment in the coal mining industry has been declining for more than 20 years (Watzman, 2004) (Figure 4.1). Mining workforce demographics have changed substantially, coinciding with increased production from surface mines and increased productivity of both surface and underground mines (Figure 4.4). However, for any of the projected scenarios that involve substantially increased coal production, the skewed age distribution of the existing coal mining workforce (Table 7.1) dramatically emphasizes the need for the industry to attract new miners in addition to replacing the retiring workforce. Similarly, railroads have cited changes in demographics, training requirements, and limits on the availability of qualified personnel as posing a risk to their ability to meet the demand for rail service. Low unemployment in the general economy has been cited as making it more difficult to hire new personnel for jobs on train crews that require considerable time away from home.

Consolidation of mining companies and the increasing size of mines over the past two decades have resulted in a marked decline in demand for technically trained personnel. This, coupled with declining funding for academic research on mining and mineral engineering issues, has resulted in fewer accredited programs at the technology and engineering levels and a decrease in the number of graduates and postgraduates from these programs. There is now a substantial shortage of technically trained personnel in the mining and mineral engineering

TABLE 7.1 Age Distribution of Employees in the Coal Mining Industry in 2005

Age

Number Employed

Percentage

Cumulative Percent

16-19

1,000

1.2

1.2

20-24

3,000

3.7

4.9

25-34

13,000

15.8

20.7

35-44

16,000

19.5

40.2

45-54

36,000

44.0

84.2

55-64

13,000

15.8

100.0

65+

0

0

 

Total

82,000

100

 

NOTE: The median age for mining employees was 46.1 years, compared with 40.7 years for the overall workforce.

SOURCE: BLS (2006).



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