Coal mining is a way of life for many West Virginians.
For Kenneth Lambert, it’s in his blood. Mining goes back generations in his family. “My Grandfather Ashby spent 40 years in the coal mines,” he told 59News. Lambert’s first glimpse of mining came from the stories his Grandfather Ashby told.
Lambert said, “For him to tell me that he would stay there an extra shift for 75 cents more and run a motor and work 16 hours plus, come home just enough time to take a small nap, never even take a shower, and just grab somethin’ on the run and go back to work, that really stuck with me.”
He started loading coal and never looked back.
Lambert said, “Once I got in there, I knew this is what i was gonna do because if I was gonna stick around here, if I was gonna make money, I was gonna have to be a coal miner.”
Lambert has been going underground for more than 3 decades.
And he’s seen it all.
From mine fatalities to a dwindling industry that once valued production over safety.
Lambert said, “Used to be, it was all about puttin’ the black stuff down the belt. Today’s coal miner has got a lot on him. Through all the changes we’ve seen in the wake of Upper Big Branch and Sago, and the other disasters.”
Those disasters ushered in new regulations for safer mines.
Lambert said, “The younger generation is getting trained better and getting shown better that ventilation is a must, your methane detection and waters sprays for dust is a must, your cleanin’ and rock dustin’, it’s a must.”
With the positive changes over the years, the industry has seen its fair share of negative setbacks too – job security being at the forefront.
We asked Lambert, “Do you fear for your job?” He said, “Yes, as far as in fear in a sense that any day could be our last. No coal mine is exempt from today’s market and how bad it is.”
The market, Lambert believes, is suffering now more than ever.
Lambert said, “We have a world market that we’re competing with and we have the EPA we’re competing with.”
Family pride, and a strong tradition of coal mining runs deep in the Lambert family – then – and now.