Surface mining of coal has a strong impact on the region's economy.
While underground mining was the rule in the early days of coal production, advances in excavating equipment, new drilling techniques and explosives have allowed surface mining to become more extensive in the past few decades. Surface mining involves removing the ground above the coal seam to reach the mineral.
According to Ed Spiker, regional vice president of coal sales and director of communications at Oxford Mining, the company has multiple operations throughout eastern Ohio. The company currently is surface mining coal in Harrison, Belmont, Jefferson, Monroe, Guernsey and Tuscarawas counties.
Most of the coal mined in eastern Ohio is from the Pittsburgh No. 8 Seam. Oxford mines more than 7 million tons of coal annually from the seam. Spiker added that Oxford Mining employs more than 630 workers in its Ohio operations.
"We move employees from job site to job site as necessary so it's a bit difficult to pin this down," he said of employment numbers. "However, we consider ourselves a significant employer in eastern Ohio with the majority of Ohio employees considered to be located in Eastern Ohio.
"We expect to be a major player in the coal business in Eastern Ohio for years to come."
What economic impact does strip mining have on the region's economy?
A big one, as companies such as Oxford Mining, Harrison Mining and Rosebud Mining employ about 1,000 people in Ohio.
Rosebud Mining has been branching out into Ohio with operations in Harrison County. Rosebud hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its new Vail Mine in Freeport this past October.
Rosebud officials said the venture should mean an increase of 50 jobs when it opens in April and an additional 50 jobs if the company opens another section.
Rosebud's Tuscarawas Mine currently employees 45 people. Company officials anticipate eventually adding up to 200 employees altogether as they continue to grow.
In addition, the low-Mercury coal found in the mine will be in great demand, since it better conforms to the Clean Air Act.
Markets in other states and possibly other countries may open up.
Rosebud has about 15,000 acres in the Freeport area. Founder and President Clifford Forrest said this mine could produce about $1.4 billion worth of coal during a 25-year life span.
It is the first of two or three mines that can potentially be developed in Harrison County.
Harrison Mining is also based outside Hopedale and is one of the largest employers in Harrison County, with between 150 and 200 employees.