The Homestead school is located in the rolling countryside, about an hour from the Big Apple, with an enrollment of about 170 students. Principal Peter Comstock arranged the visit through Cleeta Mullins, director of the Coalfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those attending the day at Mountain Laurel included some 13 fourth and fifth graders from the school, their parents and teachers, plus Ms. Mullins and several people from the Chapmanville-based Coalfield CVB.
Don Vickers, Mountain Laurel's Director of Process Improvement, provided an overview of "coal mining in West Virginia," in addition to explaining the specific methods and equipment utilized at this huge new mining complex located just south of Sharples. Vickers explained the difference between continuous miner operations and longwall mining as well as the various surface mining techniques in use in the area. The fourth and fifth graders were on a mission, to learn about mining, asking a variety of excellent questions, with a focus on environmental impact and resource utilization. Hopefully, these children and their parents returned to New York with a better appreciation of the benefits of coal mining to this nation's success as well as their personal comfort. There was little evidence that our visitors realized that over half of America's electricity comes from coal, or the overall impact that coal mining has on this country's economy.
The Mountain Laurel complex is a major producer of high grade steam and metallurgical coal. With the longwall operation beginning in October 2007, the mine has a production capacity of over four million clean tons per year. The Cardinal plant has the ability to meet a variety of customer specifications through the use of sophisticated circuitry and process control equipment. Providing over 300 jobs, Mountain Laurel promises to be a major contributor to the local economy for years to come.