Displaced coal miners in West Virginia turn to beekeeping for extra income
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Workers displaced by the decline of coal-mining communities in West Virginia are now earning extra cash from an environmental restoration project that trains people to beekeepers. 

According to NPR News, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, which is operated by the nonprofit Appalachian Headwaters, is offering beekeeping training to coal miners who have been displaced throughout the state in addition to low-income residents.

The effort arrives as the state’s mining business has continued to suffer a sharp decline in recent years. Just 53,000 coal mining jobs were reportedly offered to residents last year, which is a significant drop from the 132,000 offered in 1990. 

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West Virginia also reportedly has the country’s worst lowest labor-force participation rate.

But the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is hoping to change that.

The collective was recently formed after the Appalachian Headwaters was created in 2016 to invest funds received from a $7.5 million settlement that resulted from a lawsuit brought against coal mine operator Alpha Natural Resources. In turn, the nonprofit was tasked to invest those funds in environmental restoration projects that also employ displaced workers.

"It wasn't just the miners that lost their livelihoods when mining jobs disappeared; other industries started to wilt, too, and entire communities were affected," Cindy Bee, a beekeeper with Appalachian Headwaters, told NPR News. "We're doing something that can boost the town up."

The nonprofit has reportedly trained 35 beekeepers by way of the program in the town of Hinton alone and roughly 50 more people are scheduled to sign up for training courses that commence in a few weeks. 

The collective is reportedly operated in 17 counties across West Virginia.

The honey collected as a result of the beekeeping is reportedly bottled and sold by the collective. The beekeepers reportedly get paid market rate for the honey they harvest.