In the late 1800s and early 20th century Virginia's coal mines in Tazewell served as "the engine of prosperity," bringing with them wealth that allowed the small town of Tazewell to even have "an electric trolley," according to the New York Times. By the end of the 20th century, that wealth, along with coal mining, was well in decline.

Since 1990, Virginia's mining and logging industry's labor force has experienced a steady drop. Between 1990 and today, it has fallen over 50 percent from 17,000 to under 8,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.