Last October the world watched in awe as 33 Chilean miners were lifted to the surface and reunited with their loved ones after 69 harrowing days trapped underground. A few months earlier, on America’s own soil, 29 miners lost their lives in a tragic explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine about 30 miles south of Charleston, West Virginia.
And now all Americans will have the unprecedented opportunity to dig deep into the earth for a close look at one of the nation’s most dangerous, yet vital, industries – coal mining.
Spike TV’s new original series “Coal”, which debuts this Wednesday, focuses on the personal sacrifices the employees of Cobalt Coal, situated deep in the mining hub of McDowell County, West Virginia endure every day to make ends meet.
“This world is very dirty, very gritty. The idea that someone takes a bigger risk in life to make a bigger opportunity for themselves and their family is inspiring,” the show’s creator, Thom Beers, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “It’s an amazing world, really tough, but guys choose to go there to better their lives. They’re working in a 34 inch hole and the entire cast and my crew spent the entire twelve weeks on their knees.”
Constant kneeling aside, the biggest challenge for Beers and his production team was actually finding the right mine to spotlight for the 10 episode docu-reality series, and after four years of searching they finally cast Cobalt – a pillar mine that unearths coal primarily used to make steel, which means miners enter the bottom of a mountain horizontally and cut channels through the rock amid a cramped, claustrophobic environment.
“I didn’t want a big ol’ corporate mine where people go in and punch their card and get paid every two weeks and life is good. This is a family business. Sometimes if they (miners) don’t get enough coal that week they may not make enough for payroll,” he explained. “That’s really what small businesses in America are all about.”
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“Coal” will feature an array of these heart-felt stories – from workers getting injured and battling addictions to painkillers, to the struggle to hold on to their jobs, their dignity and subsequently, their families.
Beers, who is slated to discuss more about his death-defying programs in a panel at the upcoming NAB Show, hopes that his brainchild will help Americans understand that coal mining is a pivotal part of the U.S economy and the life force of several towns and communities not only within our own borders, but across the entire world.
“(Viewers) are going to appreciate how much America needs that energy, and will appreciate it more when they turn on the lights and what these guys do so they can have their television working. I hope that will give us a deeper understanding of power in this world,” he said. “Coal is getting bigger and bigger now (in the wake of) nuclear accidents like in Japan and the oil spill in Mexico. Coal is more stable, but the work is hard. I hope audiences take away an appreciation of what these guys do, and the pride and ownership they have in their work.”
Coal premieres on Spike, Wednesday, March 30th at 10PM/9c.
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay