October 14, 2010 / 5:09 PM / in 7 years

After Chile rescue, U.S. to get mining reality TV show

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Spike TV is set to announce a mining reality series chronicling the dangerous profession of coal mining, set in West Virginia.

<p>Trapped miner Raul Bustos (C) emerges from the "Phoenix" rescue capsule after reaching the surface to become the 30th to be rescued from the San Jose mine in Copiapo October 13, 2010. REUTERS/Hugo Infante/Government of Chile/Handout</p>

With the rescue of 33 Chilean miners drawing international headlines, the project should have little trouble generating interest from viewers and the media.

But Spike TV executives note that “Coal” has been in development for nearly a year.

“It didn’t take a tragedy, and then a miracle, to get us excited about this,” said Sharon Levy, executive vice president of original programing at Spike.

But Levy said the drama in Chile during the past 70 days only reinforced the idea that a close look at the harsh realities of mining was overdue.

The network was prepared to announce the TV project weeks ago but held off until rescue workers could begin freeing the miners. The last of the 33 men was hoisted out safely on Wednesday after more than two months trapped in a wet, hot collapsed tunnel deep in the gold and copper mine.

The operation in Chile was watched on TV and the Internet by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.

“We’ve tapped into something that people are passionate about; this is a topic the world is interested in,” Levy said. “Everybody is afraid of being buried alive. These people risk their lives every day to make the world move, yet most of us never really think about how we get (our energy).”

The “Coal” series will focus on Mike Crowder and Tom Roberts, co-owners of the Cobalt Mine in Westchester, West Virginia, and the area’s miners, families and community.

The mining team has more than 40 employees, and “Coal” will show every major aspect of their jobs, from planting explosives to surface mining to working in a traditional mine shaft.

The network will premiere 10 episodes of the one-hour series in April 2011. Production is not expected to be easy.

“It’s incredibly difficult to shoot,” Levy said. “What happened in Chile makes safety precautions even more important.”

Executive producer Thom Beers said: “Generations of families have been mining coal in the United States for nearly 300 years. Coal miners risk their lives in a way no one can imagine. We finally get to tell their stories.”

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