"We've found ammunition from the miners; we know where they fought and died," he said. "This is some of the most hallowed ground in labor history."
Nida calls the significance of the Battle of Blair Mountain "enormous" for the U.S. labor movement.
It helped the United Mine Workers of America become the backbone of the labor movement, he said, and helped form the United Steelworkers and the United Auto Workers.
The 1,600-acre battlefield was briefly added to the National Register of Historic Places, and then removed when private property owners objected. Several groups sued to have that status restored but lost their court challenge in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., last month.
It was just the latest of several setbacks.
Last summer, the state Department of Environmental Protection ruled that about 30 percent of the land is exempt from that declaration because it's already covered under mining permits, while other areas are exempt because there is clear evidence of past mining activity.
Extensive mountaintop removal mining around Blair has already driven down the local population. Since the 1990s, the number of residents has dropped from about 700 to 70.