NORTON, Va. (WYMT) - Laid-off coal miners across the region are getting a chance to go back to work.
Officials with Professional Contracting in Norton, Virginia, are accepting applications to fill more than 800 coal jobs for mines they are opening in Virginia and Southeastern Kentucky.
For generations coal mining has been a way of life across Appalachia.
"I love being underground. To me it's the only job there is," said laid-off miner Nathan Whisenhunt.
But lately layoffs have left many miners struggling to find work. Many miners told Mountain News they knew it was only a matter of time before they faced the layoffs. Laid-off miner Robert Rose said 85 people lost their jobs when he did.
"Been looking for jobs, looking around local. There wasn't none. My unemployment ran out. I went to Alabama to work," said another laid-off miner Otto Smith.
Many say it has been almost impossible to survive.
"It was tough. I had bills down there to pay, bills here to pay. It just wasn't panning out," said Whisenhunt.
Officials at Professional Contracting in Norton, Virginia, are hoping to reverse the decline by opening up five mines and two prep plants, putting miners back to work right here in Eastern Kentucky with two mines in Harlan County.
"If you give the laid-off miners a job, they help the communities they're from," said Professional Contracting President Eddie Joe Estep.
Officials hope to have nearly 850 miners to work within the next month, and they say if all goes as planned they might be able to open up enough spots for nearly 4,000 new jobs.
"When they said they were trying to fill 800 jobs I said well everybody is finally getting ready to go back to work," said Smith.
Officials say so far nearly 2500 miners have applied.
"What a change, especially for this area," said Rose.
They hope to get them all back to work as soon as possible.
You must apply in person at Professional Contracting, 850 Park Avenue, Norton, Virginia. Officials ask you bring your driver's license and miner's certification cards with you.