Kentucky's first mine, that commercially produced coal, was opened near Paradise, in Muhlen county, in 1820. Soon afterwards, others began operation, and by the late 1830'S nearly 100,000 tons of coal were produced each year form the Kentucky mines.
Coal mining in Kentucky mines in the early days was a dangerous way to make a living, and the pay was not always so good. Most coal miners and their families lived paycheck to paycheck, and Many times owed more to the "company store" than they made each payday. It was a constant struggle, and death came all to often. Over 7,000 miners have lost their lives in the coal mines of Kentucky since 1890. Until the 1960'S, when mining deaths began declining, after the average death rate of the 1950'S was 69 per year, coal mining was the most dangerous job in Kentucky. In 1969, with the enactment of a comprehensive federal mine safety and health act, deaths of miners began showing a real decline. Surface mines produced the majority of Kentucky coal until the 1980'S, when companies, to avoid reclamation expenses, began abandoning surface mines and turned to underground mining more and more. Over 100,000 acres of Kentucky's surface mines have been abandoned due to the passing of the Federal Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement Act in 1977. Two different coal fields produce Kentucky coal. In the eastern section of the state, there is a part of the Appalachian Basin Coal Field, while in western Kentucky lies part of the Interior Basin Coal Field. Together, these coal fields account for nearly 85% of the state's mineral production value. More coal is produced in Pike County than anywhere in the state; generally producing about 20% of all Kentucky coal. Adding that to the counties of Harlan, Perry, and Martin,eastern Kentucky produces nearly half of all coal produced in the entire state. Over 150 million tons are produced annually throughout the state. The coal industry of
Kentucky has over 70,000 people employed in the state, with Pike County alone employing nearly 5,000. Also, unlike the many years
past,miners average approximately $800 perweek