Everyone is busy these days. Too frequently coal companies use the fact they are publicly-listed as an excuse not to talk about the company. The quiet period surrounding the quarterly reports is now lasting six months. In reality, they have decided that if it’s not the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times calling, they are not interested. Environmental activists and comedy shows now heckle the coal mining business. The local newspapers and mainstream press routinely run rough-shod over our business. Hey King Coal, what’s that doing for your stock price?
With this type of PR approach, however, one cannot help but think about the Hans Christian Andersen tale about an Emperor who cares for nothing but his appearance and is swindled into believing he has clothes only his subjects can see. While the adults play along with the pretense, a child exposes and embarrasses him.
Like most in the industry, I watched several episodes of the reality television series “COAL” that aired recently on Spike TV with a certain amount of trepidation. For those that haven’t seen the series, it follows the miners who work at Cobalt Coal, a single section mine working a low profile met coal seam in southern West Virginia. The mine owners are underfunded and the miners are working under pressure to meet certain production expectations. Viewers saw a unique way of life both above and below ground. One has to respect the fact that the Cobalt miners had the courage to step into the spotlight and expose their way of life to the world.
What we know and the rest of the world does not is the Spike TV series only represents a small portion of the U.S. coal industry. If the series was actually going to do the U.S. coal industry justice, it would have rode in the jump seat of a 400-ton haul truck in the Powder River Basin with a female driver. Or, for the best underground experience, it would have followed longwall miners at one of the 50 faces in the U.S. where it could have filmed coal being cut safely at a rate of more than 5 million tons per year. More than likely those TV producers called the top 10 coal companies, which are all publicly listed, and were probably told no. They worked their way down the list until they found Cobalt.
The truth is King Coal is doing a lot of great things. His miners extract coal safely. He is concerned about the environment. He invests in the local communities. He provides jobs despite having to deal with detractors, such as environmental activists, knucklehead regulators and uniformed politicians. Unfortunately no one is telling his story. King Coal posts information to a web site and expects a skeptical public to believe what he says.
For nearly 100 years, Coal Age has reported on the coal business. We have helped many coal companies tell their stories during good times and bad. Being published in Coal Age is viewed by many as being prestigious and it’s a great way to recognize the achievements of people within an organization. If you have a success story to tell or you feel someone could learn from your mistakes, we would like to hear about it. But please check with your PR department first and be prepared to explain what Coal Age is.