The recent reporting from the Charleston Gazette and the Center for Public Integrity provides a sobering analysis of the dramatic resurgence of black lung disease. Only this time, the disease is being diagnosed in large numbers in younger miners and is progressing more quickly in those who are affected.
The same "improved efficiency" that enabled the mining industry to lay off workers in the industry is one of the reasons for the increase in cases of black lung, as powerful machines cut deeper and further into rock surrounding the coal.
Big Coal's resistance to common sense public safeguards and its 'gaming' of the dust sample system have condemned tens of thousands of people to agonizing, slow deaths.
Greenpeace photographer Les Stone has documented many of the miners of Virginia and Kentucky over the years, including these powerful pictures of black lung victims and their families.
They capture some of the damage done to mining communities by the archaic practice of hauling fossil fuels out of the earth to burn them, yet another destructive step in the lifecycle of coal.