Can Trump keep his election promises on coal?

We’re 250ft underground, one mile inside an Appalachian mountain.

For the workers at this Kentucky coal mine, it’s the start of a gruelling nine-hour shift in dark, damp, dusty conditions.

It’s the much talked about, seldom seen world Donald Trump campaigned on.

Kentucky and West Virginia mines once buzzed with activity, but these days across coal country it’s a low hum.

The industry is in sharp decline.

President Trump has pitched himself as the coal miner’s last hope. Under his leadership he says coal will once again be King.


Donald Trump insists his type of coal will be 'clean'

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Trump’s ‘clean coal’ pledge not convincing everyone

The Perry County mine has hired over 100 more people since Mr Trump took office.

Hopes are riding high.

Ricky Whitehead loves his job – now he says he has a President who’s got his back.

He said: “I felt joyful, excited that he got elected. I voted for him.

“He’s going to turn this country around – put people back to work, build the economy up, build the coal industry up as well.”

Miners are hoping that President Trump will turn their industry around
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Miners are hoping that President Trump will turn their industry around

The low tunnel walls and ceiling are sprayed white to increase visibility for the miners who drive battery-powered moon buggy-like vehicles to get to and from the coal face.

It’s like being on another planet down here, but above ground the realities of the real world hit hard.

After the 15 minute journey back to daylight, the miners re-surface in the town of Hazard.

It’s a small, still bustling place but its economy has dwindled as coal jobs have diminished.

The local mission gives away clothes to people who are struggling. Not everyone here is confident that Mr Trump can completely reverse the town’s fortunes.

Billie Hatfield has lived in Hazard all her life.

She said: “I don’t see the big boom coming back a local resident. I do see coal being produced again, but to say it’s going to be like it was is wishful thinking.”

Mr Trump says coal’s demise is because of what he calls Barack Obama’s job killing regulations aimed at protecting the environment.

Essentially it costs money to reduce the impact on the environment.

He has pledged to end the so-called “war on coal” by signing an executive order that wipes those rules out.

Toxic streams have been created by coal companies dumping waste
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Toxic streams have been created by coal companies dumping waste

One of the ones he’s overturned was designed to prevent the pollution of local waters.

Orange, toxic streams have been created by coal companies dumping waste.

West Virginia native Mike King has been battling to reverse the devastating effects such dumping has had on local habitats.

He shows me sludge build up on a pipe in a stream that can no longer support life.

“It suffocates the fish and the critters,” he said. “When we used to play in the creek we had a high cancer rate for this area.

“‘Bugs can’t live in your creek and the water’s orange but it won’t hurt you’ – that’s pretty much the philosophy it was back then.

“That’s not true. Moving forward we have to have regulations on coal companies – I strongly believe that we can have jobs, we can mine coal and we can protect the environment all at the same time.”

The demise of coal isn’t just about regulations – the shifting global market means power plants are moving to cleaner natural gas.

Renewables are gathering pace – there are more jobs in solar energy than there are in coal mining.

There are calls to help coal communities transition to a future beyond their former lifeblood.

Without that support, it could be Mr Trump’s own base that suffers most.

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