Published July 1974 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Upswing in Coal Spurs Timber Use The growing need for coal, triggered b y t h e shortage of other forms of energy, is having a welcome side effect in West Virginia. It is pushing up demand for the state's timber for use in and around the mines. A shortage of roof bolts has in part made the use of more mine timbers necessary; but timber is also increasingly being used in conjunction with roof bolting. There has always been a measure of interdependence between the coal and timber industries in West Virginia. The wood products industries provide materials for safe and efficient mining operations; and the deep mining of coal provides an important market for wood products. Wood mine props and sawed timbers have been used to support the mine roof since the earliest days of deep mining. And crossties for mine haulage systems, together with lumber and construction timbers for tipples and outside buildings, have likewise been part of the mining scene since the beginning. In the early 1950's, about two board feet of sawed timbers and three linear feet of mine props were required for each ton of coal mined-a ratio that declined with the advent of steel mine roof bolts. Now, other changes in mining methods and safety requirements, in addition to the energy situation, are bringing an upswing in wood use that t i m b e r growers should find encouraging. Much of this changed situation has resulted from the increased use of wood along with the steel bolts. More wood "headers" are being used. The roof bolts are driven through holes in the headers into the mine roof, so that in effect the headers serve as large "washers" to help the bolts do their job of preventing roof falls. Both treated and untreated wood are used in mining. Untreated wood is used where only short-term access to an area is required. Treated wood is used at mine entrances, in main haul ways, and other areas where long-term use is contemplated. The overall importance of wood use in coal mining is indicated by the fact that of West Virginia's total estimated 1973 lumber production of 400 million board feet, about 25 percent was sawed mine timbers. In addition, more than 50 million linear feet of round and split mine props were used. The total value of these products exceeded $21 million. The current rapid development of new deep mines in the state should result in even greater demand for wood products.