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Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 10.17.16
By Congressman Morgan Griffith
Washington, DC (Oct. 17, 2016) -

Limestone, Granite, and Coal, Oh Mine!

Last week, I highlighted manufacturing in the Ninth District, one of the ways a nation builds wealth.  Mining is another way to build wealth, and across the District there are a variety of mined commodities.

There is a long history of mining in our region, which has provided employment, economic growth, and a way of life.  In the Ninth District, in addition to coal, there are active mining permits for a variety of substances including stone such as granite, quartzite, lime, limestone, and sandstone, clay and shale, sand and gravel, salt, as well as natural gas, according to data provided by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME), as of April 2016.

Virginia has an interesting and unique geological history, particularly in Southwest Virginia.  Over time, geological events have left opportunities for us to mine and develop these rocks into much needed resources.

The stone in Southwest Virginia, granite, quartzite, limestone, and sandstone, are critical for the construction industry.  Often times crushed and mechanically broken into smaller pieces, it is critical for road construction and used as fill in concrete and asphalt.  There is sand mined in Southwest Virginia, which is utilized by the construction industry as well.  As you may expect, when the nation’s construction is in recession or boom, demand for these substances increases and decreases accordingly. 

The limestone mined in Southwest Virginia is often used as dust which is applied to the roof, walls, and floor of active coal mines for safety purposes.   This prevents explosions and helps with visibility.  The limestone is also used to make cement.  Additionally, clay and shale, mined in several Ninth District counties, are utilized to make cement, or used in pipes and bricks. 

Lime has many uses in the chemical industry, serving as filler or a neutralizing component, based on its reliable quality and low cost.  In Giles County, the Lhoist company lists lime uses in a variety of products such as leather, wine, paint, soap, citric acid, anti-freeze, biodiesel fuels and more.

Another mineral available for mining in Southwest Virginia is salt.  In the city of Saltville, according to town records, salt has been produced continuously since the 1780s, and an active mine exists today.

Southwest Virginia also provides opportunities for mining natural gas, mostly coal bed methane, extracted from coal beds.  Conventional gas, produced from shale, limestone, and sandstone can be mined as well.  I am supportive of ongoing research and determination of the benefits and risks, safety requirements, and citizens’ feedback of potential developments in their area.

For many families in Southwest Virginia, coal mining has been a way of life for generations.  According to the Virginia DMME, in the mid-1700s the discovery of coal was first recorded in the region and it was reported that Montgomery and Pulaski County were home to small-scale mining locations as early as 1782.

In recent years, during President Obama’s administration, regulations have crippled the coal industry, just as he promised.  As we continue the fight to reduce and eliminate overreaching regulations, new techniques, technological advances, and safety improvements will help the coal industry recover.  Coal remains the cheapest source of energy for Americans, and will continue to provide jobs in our region.

As the future of energy production and mining in the United States evolves, opportunities remain abundant in Southwest Virginia.  The Ninth District is home to one of our nation’s top mining and minerals engineering programs at Virginia Tech. 

There are two internationally recognized research centers - the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research and the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies, that are part of their program.  According to Virginia Tech, research opportunities include GPS applications, tomography, real-time geologic mapping, environmental engineering, clean coal technologies and mineral processing.  Furthermore, the program reports in the last four years, undergraduate enrollment has grown by over 40%, and the number of students pursuing an M.S. or Ph.D. has increased by over 60%.

As we look towards the future, we must also acknowledge those who performed the thankless work of keeping our lights on, especially those facing health issues such as Black Lung, and those whose employers have gone through bankruptcy.  This weekend, after touring a mine in Buchanan County, I took part in a roundtable to discuss the concerns of these individuals.    Protecting the jobs, health, and welfare of all miners in Southwest Virginia is a priority.

The mining industry is a cornerstone of Southwest Virginia, and an investment into our economic future. 

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

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