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What Are the Pros and Cons of Working as a Coal Miner?

Large tunnels in a coal mine.
Most miners wear face protection, which may include a respirator.
Coal mining can lead to certain serious health conditions involving the lungs.
If a coal mine catches fire it can burn for years.
Article Details
  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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Becoming a coal miner does not usually require any expensive and time-consuming schooling, but it is very physically demanding. Coal companies also typically pay their miners very well and provide them with excellent benefits. Mining is usually considered very dangerous work, however, and miners are at risk of physical injury as well as chronic health conditions. Black lung disease, for instance, is often associated with coal mining.

A person interested in becoming a coal miner usually does not have to go to college or even a technical school. The low education requirements of this job often attract many people who can not afford to pursue a traditional post-secondary education. Many of these workers learn how to work in the mines from on-the-job training.

Physical work is often a major requirement of being a coal miner, though. A coal miner should be very physically fit and healthy. He should be able to work very long shifts in cramped quarters. These workers are also usually expected to be able to lift heavy objects. At the end of the work day, many coal miners are usually very tired and sore.

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Coal miner pay is also usually quite high compared to some other jobs. In the United States, for example, a laborer in a coal mine will usually make more than $20 US Dollars (USD) an hour. The benefits a coal miner receives are also usually quite good. Many coal companies, for instance, will also provide their employees with medical insurance and retirement plans. Some companies also offer housing for their coal miners.

Although safety is often a priority at many coal mines, one of the biggest disadvantages of being a coal miner is that it is still a dangerous job. Injuries are not uncommon when working in a coal mine, particularly an underground coal mine. Falling objects, fires, and explosions are all real dangers in a coal mine. Although they are not as common today as they were in previous years, collapsed coal mines are also still a risk to many coal miners.

Coal miners are also at risk of developing chronic respiratory illnesses, which are caused by breathing in thick coal dust. Black lung disease is a common respiratory illness contracted by coal miners. In fact, it is also often referred to as coal worker's pneumoconiosis. A coal miner who breathes in coal dust for many years is at risk of developing this disease.

Symptoms of black lung disease include shortness of breath and coughing. There is no treatment for this disease, but coal miners who suffer from it are typically advised to avoid respiratory irritants, especially coal dust. Eventually, black lung disease could lead to more serious complications, including chronic bronchitis and respiratory failure.

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