Sarah Sanders touts coal mines and onion rings



By John Offalé
Radio Free Ozarks Business Reporter
April 7th, 2022

Major coal mining operations would return to west-central Arkansas under a new economic development agreement released by Republican candidate for governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who also had a hankering for some onion rings. During a 5-minute campaign stop at Eagle Restaurant in Clarksville, Sanders hailed the agreement to grant new coal mining leases to Koch Industries, which would use modern automated technologies and equipment to once again make large-scale coal extraction profitable in Arkansas.

Legitimate news organizations such as Radio Free Ozarks were only given 30 minutes advance notice of the event, and as a result there were only two reporters in attendance.

“Coal is a gift from God when he created the Earth 6000 years ago,” Sanders declared after placing her order, in the restaurant that was formerly an adult bookstore. “A people who do not fully receive God’s gifts are not a fully blessed people. Sadly there is still coal underground in Arkansas. This plan will right that wrong and the Lord’s blessings will be sure to flow.

“With this plan in place, all of the newly-mined coal will be sold and exported to China because they’re having a very high demand for coal there. There’s a shortage going on. There are strong economic benefits for America and for Arkansas. All everybody hears about is how we import everything from China but now we can start to turn the tables here. Arkansas’ exports to China will help offset the US’s trade deficit with China. And any coal shipped overseas is coal that will not be burnt in the US and therefore it will not contribute to air pollution. This is an environmentally sound program.”

A reporter from the University of the Ozarks’ student newsletter interrupted Sanders to ask why exporting coal to China would help anyone, as the CO2 and pollution would all end up in the earth’s atmosphere when it is burnt. Sanders angrily responded as the reporter was threatened with arrest by an Arkansas State Trooper and told to leave the restaurant. “That is a leading question and frankly I am offended at your insinuations,” Sanders scowled. “Goodbye. Who said that the Chinese would burn the coal that we ship there? I never said burn. You did. It is not our concern what they do with they coal that they buy. Maybe you could ask them if you want to do your job. And stop perpetuating the radical left’s CO2 lie while you’re at it.”

Turning back to the crowd, Sanders appeared to stray from her prepared remarks. “If you buy a bourbon chocolate pecan pie from UberEats do they tell you how to use it after you buy it? Does UberEats tell you that you are only allowed to eat it? Am I not allowed to post a picture of it on Twitter? There are many instances around the world of coal being used to fill in low-lying areas to help prevent flooding. And in art classes. Who hasn’t drawn with charcoal? And as landscaping material. It’s a growing trend in China. Like lava rock, only blacker and cooler so it costs more. A status item. It’s all natural. Certified 100% organic coal. Sure. There are many things to do with coal besides burning. Yes.”

Coal mining in Arkansas stretches back to 1848, increasing over the decades and peaking around 1907 with peak of 2.6 million tons produced that year, then rapidly falling off in the 1920’s with the rise of the oil industry. Over the years, more than 100 million tons of coal were mined. The mines in Arkansas tapped a seam of coal stretching along the Arkansas River Valley between Russellville and areas south of Fort Smith. The town of Coal Hill takes its name from the mining operations, and monuments to the miners are located in Altus and Greenwood. Data for onion ring consumption in the state could not be located.

A single-page letter-sized outline of the economic development agreement was displayed on a table for approximately 2 minutes during the event, where photographs were not allowed. The agreement noted that the new coal mines will use new highly-automated mining equipment, using GPS technology and AI imaging, and that the new mines are expected to create “upwards of 35 paying jobs”. The agreement went on to note that “unlike the dangerous underground mining techniques of yesteryear, the reopened mines will use modern, safe, open pit strip-mining and/or mountaintop removal techniques.”

Open pit strip mine
Open Pit Strip Mining (via Koch Industries 2018 Annual Report)

The outline listed, in bold print, that Koch Industries would pay a royalty to the Arkansas State Treasury based on the amount of coal removed. The small print at the bottom of the outline added the detail that Koch Industries would pay a royalty of $0.001 per ton of coal for the first 5 million tons removed annually, with no royalty paid above that amount. The small print at the bottom of the document also appeared to state that Koch Industries would require a “facilitating payment of no less than $300 million” to be paid directly to Koch Industries management from the Arkansas State Treasury before mining operations could commence.

The outline did not appear to list the proposed mining locations. The outline also did not appear to address any environmental concerns such as removal of mining waste, protection of water resources, or restoration of the environment, but the document was snatched away from the table by a Sanders campaign representative before it could be fully vetted.

Sanders did not take any other questions as she and her small entourage quickly left the restaurant, with to-go orders of onion rings in hand. Sanders climbed into the back of her campaign’s 2022 GMC Yukon Denali. The Sanders campaign’s SUV and two State Trooper police interceptors with flashing lights and blaring sirens sped to the on-ramp to I-40 and were soon speeding eastward down the interstate at speeds estimated to be well in excess of 100 mph.

SHS photo attribution: Gage Skidmore (modified) CC BY-SA 2.0