>> West Virginia's coal country, where output is at it's lowest point in decades, was prime for investment when Wall Street came calling 20 years ago. But things haven't worked out as planned. Reporter Patrick Rucker traveled to the Hobet mine near Charleston learning that after years of buying, selling and bankruptcy, there's little left over to clean up the mess and care for ailing miners.
>> Behind me is an emblem of this site. Its called a drag line. It's a 20 story mechanical digger that for more than 30 years has been shaping these mountains, clawing away the dirt to get to the coal. There was a time when 5 million tons of coal could be produced at this mine.
There was enough work for 300 miners. But now, this site, having gone through bankruptcy like so many coal companies in the US in the last couple years, it's out of money. All that's left are liabilities. Water has to be restored, cleaned, that could go on for 100 years by some estimates.
>> When the industry was near a peak, Wall Street firms began scooping up coal companies on borrowed money. And along with them, over time, the debt stacked up, and the investors melted away. In the past two years, companies that once had ties to Hobet have all gone bankrupt, but left behind decades worth of environmental and pension liabilities.
>> These liabilities, hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup, health, pension for the miners, another hundreds of millions of dollars, unclear who's gonna pay for that. Could be the taxpayer, according to some lawmakers who are concerned that the industry didn't do enough to prevent this day from happening.
A day when all these liabilities, all these costs, don't have anyone standing behind them.>> Coal supporters blame the failures not on Wall Street, but on competition from natural gas, weak demand, and government pollution controls they call a war on coal. But whatever the case, miners are left feeling Wall Street took a bad situation and made it worse.