Coal mining is the main occupation available to the residents of District 12. The job requires its workers to dig for coal in District 12's underground mines. Although open to either gender, the majority of workers are men. The only real qualification required is that employees have to be over the age of 18.
Coal mining is an extremely dangerous profession as accidents, ranging from explosions in caves, are frequent. Some coal miners caught in these accidents are mutilated and often lose limbs like Ripper, while many others die in these mining accidents, as did both Katniss and Gale's fathers, Mr. Everdeen and Mr. Hawthorne. Some coal miners can also experience trouble breathing in older age, due to working in the coal mines.
Towards the beginning of the uprising in Catching Fire, District 12's Head Peacekeeper, Cray, is replaced by Romulus Thread. In response to the rebellion, the Hob is burned down and the mines are closed for two weeks. When they reopen, workers' wages are cut, their hours extended and the work sites become more and more dangerous. This comes a few months after Gale starts work in the mines, along with Bristel and Thom, affecting the lives of themselves and their families.
Effect on the Games
Coal mining is one of the few occupations in Panem that only opens to residents once their eligibility for the reaping of the Hunger Games is over, resulting in severely undertrained tributes. While the children of some districts, even District 11 (whose children are included in the harvests from an early age), have the chance to build their strength and skills in their respective industries for years, the children of District 12 do not have the opportunity to develop special skills or strength that they would gain working in the mines. This helps to explain why District 12 only had four victors over the course of 74 years.