Kray Luxbacher, department Charles T. Holland Professor and Associate Head, attended and presented at UNECE’s Fourteenth Session Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane. The Group of Experts met in early November 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss gender diversity and inclusion. Recognizing both ongoing changes and the need to promote inclusiveness in the industry, the Group discussed barriers impeding women from entering the sector and barriers hampering women’s professional development.

Luxbacher’s presentation, titled “Coal Mine Closure and Effects on Women – A Perspective from the U.S.,” highlighted the changing face of coal mining in the United States, including impacts on women and specifically the closure of mines in the Appalachian region.

According to Luxbacher, “with only about 4% of the US coal workforce identifying as female, it might seem illogical to discuss the impacts of these closures on women, but, in fact, women living and working in these communities suffer negative impacts.” She noted how efforts to reeducate and employ former coal miners in these communities are aimed at out-of-work male miners, without enough attention being paid to the situation of women living in the affected communities.

Kramer Davis Luxbacher

At the session, Luxbacher underlined that “employment and education programs must be aimed at all members of the community” and advocated for “inclusive long term mine closure planning in collaboration with all stakeholders,” rather than often unsuccessful re-education and re-employment programs that focus only on out-of-work miners.

In her talk, Luxbacher provided positive examples, such as a town where women are leading the fight to reclaim and reinvigorate their community as civic leaders. Ultimately, she noted, employment and education programs must be aimed at all members of the community rather than just out of work miners, who are predominantly male. Furthermore, leadership is needed to attract new industries, and inclusive long-term mine closure planning in collaboration with communities could result in more positive outcomes.

With 56 member States in Europe, North America and Asia, The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) encourages the sustainable development and economic prosperity among its member countries. UNECE’s Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM) promotes activities aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal mines as well as improving underground safety conditions and reducing coal mine explosions.