On April 5, 2012, the two-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 coal miners in Raleigh County, West Virginia, Charles Annenberg Weingarten (philanthropist, documentarian and founder of explore.org) will premiere a half-hour documentary special about the tragedy on national independent network Link TV. The program, titled “West Virginia – Hillbillies, Coal Miners, Treehuggers & God,” features in-depth interviews with local residents of Raleigh County and extensive footage from deep in the belly of the West Virginia mines; the film will premiere on Thursday, April 5th at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PT. and online at http://explore.org/#!/videos/player/west-virginia-special.
In April of 2010, just weeks after the mine explosion, Charlie Annenberg and a film crew from explore.org, the philanthropic media organization he founded to champion the selfless acts of others, traveled to Raleigh County, West Virginia, to understand the issues facing the mining industry and the region. By including interviews with dozens of local area residents – from coal miners to local environmental activists to other community members – Charlie was able to capture a diverse perspective on coal mining, mountaintop removal and the recent tragedy.
Deeply moved by his experiences there, Charlie arranged for the Annenberg Foundation (of which he is vice president and trustee) to donate $2.5 million to help fund the relocation of Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, West Virginia. The school was seen by local community groups as a potential health hazard for grade school students due to its location below a dam holding back billions of gallons of coal slurry. The new school is now under construction and will open in early 2013.