While many politicians are arguing in favor of “clean coal” — because they’ve been sleeping through economics classes — the real world is learning to adapt to the rapid decline of a once bustling industry. Coal is bleeding jobs in West Virginia. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, tens of thousands of jobs have opened up. But thanks to the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective (or ABC), those out-of-work coal miners might finally have someplace to go.

The best part of the deal? Those miners won’t just be helping the economy, they will be helping to promote a clean, strong, and sustainable environment here in West Virginia. And that’s exactly what we need right now.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective has tasked itself with preparing the miners for a new way of life, training them to maintain hives and keep bees healthy. Not everyone is heading off for the bee colonies, though. Some are training to enter the technology sector. Some miners have acknowledged that where they go really depends on where they came from — and when.

Former miner James Scyphers said, “The older folks want to get back to work, but mining is never going to be like it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and there is nothing to fall back on, no other big industries here, so all of these folks need retraining. Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both.”

Many former miners are happy they get to work outdoors.

A nonprofit organization called Appalachian Headwaters runs the ABC, and has sunk about $7.5 million into environmental restoration projects to help both the community and the environment. 

But guess where that $7.5 million came from? The ABC sued Alpha Natural Resources — a coal mining company — for its violation of the Clean Water Act, and won the $7.5 million settlement. 

Master beekeeper Cindy Bee said, “It wasn’t just the miners that lost their livelihoods when mining jobs disappeared; other industries started to wilt, too, and entire communities were affected. We’re doing something that can boost the town up.”

Usually beekeeping requires a hefty investment for supplies and training, but new entrants are finding it cheaper and easier than ever thanks to ABC’s investments. Those who do well can expect to take in over $10,000 of extra spending cash each season — and better than that, they can also expect to promote a better environment for all of us!

Coal Miners In West Virginia To Become…Bee Keepers?