The above picture of a "Working Strip Pit" is very unique and, to me, one of the
best pictures that I have seen on the complete operation of a "Strip Pit". I am
not aware of the name of the photographer, possibly a professional that was contracted
by the River Queen Mine to take the picture. A large version of the picture hung on
the wall of the River Queen Office and Peabody gave any mine employee that requested
a picture, a smaller version of the original. Ray McClain provided the picture
that is shown above. Thanks Ray.
Once a stripper enters a mine area and starts to "Strip" or remove the overburden,
that area becomes known as a "Pit" and when being mined, it is an active pit.
After the stripper removes this "Overburden", or the dirt and rocks from the top of
the coal, a coal seam is exposed. The "Loader" follows the stripper, sometimes a
few yards behind the stripper and other times much farther. The "Loader" digs the
coal and loads it into massive trucks that enter the "Pit". Once loaded onto these
"Haul" trucks, the coal is transported from the pit to a processing plant or a
transfer point. The loaded truck would drive over the plant hopper and dump the coal
into massive storage hoppers, and in most cases without stopping. Then it was
back to the pit for another load. Working and entering the pit are other pieces
of machinery that play an important role in the removal of the coal. Supply trucks
enter the pit area to supply the pit operation and deliver anything and everything
from drinking water and parts to explosives. "Caterpillars" and other "Earth Moving"
equipment are necessary in a pit and have the task from clearing the pit area,
especially around the stripper and loaders, to pulling stuck or mired equipment.
"Drills" either vertical or horizontal are in the pit or on top of the pit
area that is being stripped. Their work task is to dig the holes for blasting.
Once an area is "Shot" or an explosive charge set off, the overburden and the coal
seam are much easier to dig. This breaking up of the rock and earth in the overburden
and breaking up the coal seam make it easier for the stripper and loaders. Of
course, the "Miners" and their vehicles enter and leave the pit area for work
and for access to their work assignment, whether it be for a full day of work
operating specific pieces of equipment or for a maintenance trip to the pit area.
In general, the pit area is one busy place.
In the foreground area of the picture is the giant River Queen Stripper, nicknamed
the "Big Digger". This Marion 5960 Shovel had a 125 Cubic Yard Bucket. It
operated from about 1969 until 1989 or for a period of almost twenty years.
Twenty years of twenty-four hours a day continuous digging produced a massive
area of spoils, but in this machine's time frame, new laws required that the
spoils be placed back in as near condition as they were prior to the start of
the operation. At least, after the "Stripped Area" was depleted of coal and the
mine shut down, the mined area could be useful, instead of a wasteland that was
left in the early operation of the forties and fifties.
Just behind the M 5960 Shovel appears to be a drill and maybe two caterpillars.
Behind them is another vertical drill, two pick-up trucks and another piece of
equipment that I can not identify. It could be a cable-reel truck or any other
special pieces of equipment that may be used for a part of the day. All of just
mentioned equipment are situated on top of the uncovered coal seam. Behind them
and removing the coal are two loaders. The first loader, and the one with the
long boom, is probably the special BE 270B Loader. On the "Hiwall" side and at
the top right is a dark object that is probably a vertical drill and across the
pit from it, on the "Spoil" side, is a dragline. This dragline, a BE 1260
Dragline, with a 36 Cubic Yard Bucket, is on top of the spoil and is re-depositing
the "Spoil" to give the Marion 5960 Stripper more room when it returns on the
next pass. Most of the lighter colored areas are "Haul Roads" and the brown
colored area to the top left is some of the reclaimed land. The reclaimed land
does not look bad.
Peabody's River Queen Mine
In the early years of strip mine operation in Ohio County and Western Kentucky,
the coal companies would ravage the land and leave it for the next generations.
It was mostly a "Wasteland" without many forms of plant nor animal life. The
rocks next to the coal seams, naturally high in acid, were now being dumped on
the top of the earth and our land was being poisoned just like the acid runoff
from the underground mines had poisoned the creeks in earlier times. In the
forties and fifties time frame, I had never know of any form of living plant,
fish, or animal life that could survive in Lewis Creek. It had been contaminated
by mine runoff water many years ago, and now the land was being poisoned in the
same manner. The coal companies were providing a job and good pay for the local
families. The miners, other people and small companies that were directly and
indirectly making a good living from the presence of the coal companies were
closing a blind eye to the environmental problems. This type of problem, being
directly caused by the Strip Mines, continued for over twenty years. Some sections
of the "Stripped" land, in the Ken Mine Area, was land that an average person could
not walk over and a rabbit would have to take a lunch if he attempted to cross the
barren land. One excuse or "Come Back" to those that were complaining about the
land being "Raped", was that the land was not very good land anyway. At least,
it would produce scrub Oak trees and earthworms could survive under the soil.
After being stripped, the Oak trees and the earthworms were gone.
Then in the mid-sixties, groups of "Environmentalist" and other organizations,
including a lot of the citizens, combined forces and took the problem to Frankfort.
After many battles were fought, and many disagreements arose, between those wanting
to continue this ravage of the earth, and those wanting it stopped, the issue was
eventually settled. The end results were laws being enacted to force the coal
companies to reclaim the stripped land. The ugly and barren land that was once
the normal after effect, when a company turned over the soil, was not being restored
to the original contour and top soil was being place on the top. Most were pleased
and the miners realized that the companies were not going to be forced to shut down
an operation just because they had to spend a little more to reclaim the stripped
area. Actually, it created more jobs. At least, now humans and animals could traverse
the new terrain. May we never destroy such a natural resource again.
Thanks for being patient and trying to understand more than one point of view.
As always, whether you agree or not, thanks for looking. I hope that you did
not waste your time.