Bootleg mining

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A bootleg mine shaft near Ashland, Pennsylvania. Here, one man would get into the cart and two other men would crank him down into the shaft. The man in the shaft would fill up the cart with coal and the two men at the top of the shaft would pull the cart up.

Bootleg mining is illegal coal mining.

The term originated around the 1920s, though the practice probably predates that. Generally, a bootleg mine (sometimes called a Bootleg Pit) is a small mine dug by a handful of men. Often this took place surreptitiously on land owned by somebody else, such as a coal company. They were frequently dug by coal miners off official tunnels in order to procure additional, free coal for themselves, a practice that causes additional ramifications when fighting mine fires. Sometimes small pits are hidden under houses or outbuildings. Usually, the mine is not large enough to turn around in. The pits are known for being unsafe, and often causing collapse.

The practice has died away in the United States; an American with simple equipment cannot dig enough coal in a day to reach a living wage. Bootleg mines in China are very common, as are the fatalities resulting from unregulated mining.

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