About Coal Country


Documentary film, companion book and soundtrack CD

Coal Country premeiered in Fall 2009


Since Coal Coutry premiered, miners have endured a serious mine disaster where 29 miners were killed due to the flagrant and criminal activities of Massey Energy about safety regulations, more pollution, destruction of mountains, and even the death of one of the people in the film, Judy Bonds. Judy dedicated her life to stopping mountain top removal, and brought to light the health effects and inhuman conditions that the people of Appalachia continue to endure. Judy died of massive cancer thoughout her body, did not smoke, and lived next to a mountain top removal site. Her groundwater was polluted, and her neighboring creek ran black with mining sludge.

Coal is very far from the minds of most Americans. It takes a profound tragedy, like the deaths of 12 miners at Sago Mine in January, 2006, to make us consider where our energy comes from. We hear a great deal about our dependence on foreign oil and the need for renewable energy. But few of us realize that coal-fired utilities currently produce nearly half the electricity in the U.S. We use about three times as much coal as we did in the early 1980s. The methods used to mine and process coal often go unnoticed by outsiders, even though they have an enormous impact on people, cultures and the environment.


In the coal country of Appalachia, passions are running high. Families and communities are deeply split over what is being done to their land by ‘mountaintop removal’ coal mining, or MTR. The tops of mountains are blasted away, exposing seams of coal, while debris is pushed into valleys and streams. Coal is mined more cheaply than ever and America relies on it as an energy source. But in the process, water and air are filled with chemicals, and an ancient mountain range is disappearing forever.


COAL COUNTRY takes us inside modern coal mining. We get to know working miners along with activists who are battling coal companies in Appalachia.  We visit the homes of people most directly affected by MTR; they talk to us about health problems, dirty water in their wells and streams, and dust and grime on their floors.

We hear from miners and coal company officials, who are concerned about jobs and the economy and believe they are acting responsibly in bringing power to the American people.

Both sides in this conflict claim that history is on their side. Families have lived in the region for generations, and most have ancestors who worked in the mines. Everyone shares a deep love for the land, but MTR is tearing them apart. Are the people fighting against mountaintop removal really protecting the earth, or do they stand in the way of affordable energy for all Americans? We need to understand the meaning behind promises of “cheap energy” and “clean coal.” Are they achievable? At what cost?

And what are the alternatives for our energy future?

Executive Producer: MARI-LYNN EVANS            Writer/Producer/Director: PHYLIS GELLER


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