History buff plans bus tours of W.Va. coalfields

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia's southern coalfields, known to many outsiders for recent mining disasters, are also rich with American labor history and tales of bravery that Doug Estepp believes will rivet the tourists he plans to take there next summer.

Estepp, a Mingo County native, has launched a company that could be the first to share the rugged region's history with tourists. Coal Country Tours LLC is planning at least two tours for the summer of 2011, including a three-day West Virginia Mine War Tour in June.

"I'm basically trying to finance my obsession," Estepp, 51, joked Friday.

"Really, my goal is to expose people to the history. I'm from that area. It's a tough area. The economics are rough," said Estepp, who now lives in Toms Brook, Va. "But I really think there's a real potential for tourism, and I wanted to jump on it because no one's doing anything with it."...

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