How Many Americans Do Just 10 Coal Mines Kill?


Written by Brian Merchant

Wyoming’s Powder River Basin is home to 10 of the nation’s largest coal mines. That coal is shipped across the country and then shoveled into some of our biggest, dirtiest power plants. Together, they generate 40% of the nation’s electricityŚand the pollution that spews forth as the coal is burned kills thousands of people every year. To get an uncomfortably precise idea of where it’s having the most devastating impact, just look over this infographic from High Country News: (here’s the full-size version)

High Country News/Promo image

Emissions from coal plants, especially those blasted from the creaky, half century-old giants that skirt regulations mandated by the Clean Air Act, cause asthma, respiratory illness, lung disease, and cancer.

And remember, this graphic only demonstrates the impact of coal-fired emissions from one group of mines. And just look how dramatically it blankets Appalachia and the rust belt in particulate-ridden coaly air. Appalachia has its own share of coal mines too, of courseŚmany of which result in topless mountains. So this is really just about half of coal’s deadly impact, all of which stems from one grouping of mines.

On top of all that, Climate Progress’s Stephen Lacey notes that Powder River Basin coal is responsible for 14% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But the visual is what’s important here. More folks need to know that they’re breathing in polluted air, even if they live 100 miles away from a coal plant, and this message really needs to sink in: If you live in one of those dark red areas, coal might actually kill you.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Related Stories:

Coal Not the Only “Climate Bad Guy”

Neighborhood Activists Shut Down Two Coal Fired Power Plants

New Folk Music Video On Impact of Mountain Top Removal


Photo from peterp via flickr

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Grace Adams
Grace Adams2 years ago

So how many Americans does coal kill each year? American main-stream allopathic healthcare is blamed by eclectic healthcare gurus for about 195,000 American deaths a year between about 105,000 from bad reactions to prescription drugs and about 90,000 other medical mishaps. How does coal's toll compare to that?

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago


Lilithe Magdalene

Yikes. Glad I live in CA, and use geothermal electricity! But still, it is a big weird operation, and to think that most of the electricity we use generates this much suffering, when alternatives are being suppressed... argh!! This needs to change now!

rene davis
rene davis3 years ago


bob m.
bob m.3 years ago

Who's on first????.. The more things change ..the more they seem to stay the same.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Joan Mcallister
.3 years ago

Interesting article thanks for posting

Christine Stewart

When a coal mine tunnel collapses and the miners die of crushing injuries or suffocation, I would say the coal mine did indeed kill people!

bob m.
bob m.3 years ago

None butthead... coal mines don't kill people; people do.