Karan then went to work as human resources manager at Elmer Buchta Trucking, a large coal hauler in southern Indiana.
“It was a really good job,” she said. “I still got to work with the mines and I stayed there until January 2009.”
At that time, Karan accepted a position as human resources manager for Vectren Fuels’ Prosperity Mine in Petersburg, Indiana. In 2012, she moved to take the same job at the Black Panther Mine (now Oaktown Fuels 1&2), a sister mine to Prosperity. She’s been there ever since. Both mines were acquired in September 2014 by Sunrise Coal.
With 35 years working in the coal mining industry, Karan is planning to retire in the next year. Looking back on her career, she wouldn’t trade it for another.
“It gets in your blood,” she said. “Once you’re a coal miner, it’s hard to go into any other job. That saying you use, ‘I Am Coal’, is true. It becomes not just what you do but who you are.”
Karan is proud of her job and her work in the coal industry.
“I am part of the team that works to produce the coal that the world needs,” she said. “We really do keep the lights on, not just here in the United States but for the world. Most people just don’t realize it. And I do feel that I am coal because I am part of that team. We depend on each other and trust each other. It’s definitely made me a better person.”
Karan said the coal industry really is more like a family, and she noted that isn’t just a saying. A parent will request an interview for a son or daughter, and there are many examples of parents and children working together at the mine. Karan thinks employees see the opportunity for their children to earn good pay and good benefits. Coal is just a good family industry.
“I have met so many hard-working, brave people in my years in the industry. I hear it called ‘Big Coal’ but there’s no difference between us … we’re all coal miners. We support each other and look out for each other on the job.”
Karan said it upsets her when she hears people talking negatively about the coal industry. She would recommend working in the industry to anyone.
“People who talk negatively about the coal industry don’t understand mining,” Karan said. “It gave me the opportunity to start at entry-level and move up, to raise my children and to allow them to get college degrees. And it has helped me move into retirement comfortably.”
Much has changed since the spring of 1980. America has changed. The coal industry has changed. But one thing hasn’t changed – our country can depend on coal and people like Karan Thacker to provide the resources to fuel our nation’s economy.