I don't know about coal mining, but in underground metal mines it is not uncommon for miners to clear over $100,000/year. It can be tough physical work, but many operations rely entirely on equipment and a miner's job is not particularly strenuous. There are inherent dangers in the field just as there are in law enforcement and fire fighting, but like those fields, the world would be a much worse place if mining went away. Unfortunately most people's opinions on the industry and the dangers associated with it are far removed from reality and reflect the state of the industry 50-100 years ago. Mining fatalities are far less common than people believe (72,57,55 for 2006,2005 and 2004 respectively). According to the US Dept. of Labor, in 2006, the fatality rate in mining was not even twice that of transportation and warehousing and less than three times that of construction. Agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting had a higher fatality rate than mining. Miners commonly remain in the industry for their entire career, because it is good paying, challenging and rewarding work. Some people are skittish and afraid of being underground. Mining is a bad career option for those individuals. There are many people who are not afraid of working in dark, dirty conditions with hazards to contend with. It may seem hard to believe, but getting dirt under your fingernails is not the end of the world.