In November of 2009, resolutions were introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate to declare Dec. 6 as National Miners Day. Sen. Harry Reid introduced Senate Resolution 337 on behalf of Sen. Robert Byrd and himself.
Rep. Nick Rahall introduced the resolution in the House. Both passed with bipartisan support. Dec. 6, 2009, was the first time National Miners Day was celebrated.
National Miners Day was established to "celebrate and honor the contributions of miners and encouraging the people of the United States to participate in local and national activities celebrating and honoring the contributions of miners."
Both resolutions note that miners "daily risk life and limb in their labors;" that "the foundations of civilization are constructed from, advanced by, and sustained with, the materials procured with miner's sweat and blood;" that miners "have labored long and hard over our country's existence to make it the economically strong, military secure Nation that it is today."
The date Dec. 6 was chosen because of a mining tragedy that took place in Monongah, W. Va. on that day in 1907. It was the "greatest loss of lives in American industrial history."
From that tragedy, there developed a national effort to ensure the safety and health of miners that continues to this day.
Mining in Colorado began in 1859 with the discovery of gold. Ira Q. Sanborn was the geologist who discovered coal in 1883 near what would become Somerset. Somerset took its name from a mining town in England, Somersetshire. Among the mines in Somerset were the Somerset Mine owned by Utah Fuel Company, Bear Coal Mine, Hawk's Nest and Oliver Mine.
Bowie was named after Alexander Bowie who became the general manager of the Juanita Coal and Coke Company in 1906.
Today, Bowie Resources, Oxbow's Elk Creek Mine and Mountain Coal's West Elk Mine continue to supply coal to the nation. Oxbow is doing exploratory drilling for a possible future mine on Oak Mesa in Delta County.
According to the Colorado Mining Association, the state's mining industry accounts for over $3 billion is annual sales and over $8 billion in total economic value. Of that, coal generates $888 million; gold, molybdenum and silver $1.5 billion; and gypsum, sand/gravel and other minerals $654 million. Colorado ranks eighth among the states who are involved in coal production. The total mining industry in Colorado directly employs 5,000 and indirectly another 5,162 jobs.
Locally, the coal mines employ approximately 1,000 workers and many more in related businesses.
West Elk Mine has received a number of safety awards from 2009 to 2011. They have 1,722 acres of federal coal leases and produced 5.9 million tons of coal in 2011.
Bowie Resources has the only mine currently in operation in Delta County. As of Oct. 21, Bowie's raw coal production was 3,434,287 tons with total shipments of 2,988,549 tons.
According to Oxbow Mining, Elk Creek Mine produces five million tons of coal annually. Elk Creek is expected to produce more than 60 million tons of coal over the next 10 years. If Elk Creek continues at its production pace, it will be one of the top five producing underground coal mines in the country.
The public is invited to attend a book signing event this Saturday, Dec. 8 at 1:30 p,m, at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum. Local authors and historians, Kathy Addams McKee and Claudia Sutliff King will be speaking about their just released book, "North Fork Valley" which covers the history of the area including the mining history of Bowie and Somerset. The book which features many inside stories, facts and photographs of early mining in the North Fork, will be available for purchase at the museum. "North Fork Valley" is part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing.
This event is one way to learn more about the importance of mining in the North Fork Valley from its earliest days.blog comments powered by Disqus