Before dawn, a coal miner named Cameron Justice stopped at a gas station in Mingo County, West Virginia, grabbing two cans of Monster Energy drink before heading into the pits. He could use the jolt. The barrel-chested 37-year-old works six shifts a week at the Ruby Energy mine in the heart of U.S. coal country. Last year, he was lucky to get four.
“We’re booming,” Justice said. “This is the biggest upswing I’ve seen in five years. Everyone’s excited.” Like a mountain stream reviving after a drought, money is trickling into Appalachia again — at least, for now.
It begins with a trio of global forces: Chinese production curbs, President Donald Trump’s anti-regulatory policies and investor bets that have, over the last year, doubled the market value of publicly traded U.S. coal companies, to $15 billion.
It ends in cities like Logan, population 1,800, where streets that once bustled with small businesses are now blighted with shuttered stores, boarded-up windows and sidewalks laced with cracks.
The gossip here is no longer about mine closures and mass layoffs. Miners are snagging $1,000 signing bonuses, fully paid health insurance and raises again. (Justice just earned a 50-cent-an-hour bump.)
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