Rank said Thursday she would consider debating Roberts, but wasn't sure that a public debate would be the best forum to discuss the UMW's differences with environmentalists.
"Certainly the conservancy has not avoided discussing these issues with anyone, including the mine workers," Rank said.
Rank added that other issues, including environmental impacts of mining, tax breaks for coal companies "and all the positives and liabilities" should be included in any such debate.
In addition to the debate challenge, Roberts announced Thursday that the UMW would soon launch "Challenge West Virginia," an advertising campaign intended to stimulate discussion about mining's economic benefits.
"There is currently a movement in West Virginia to raise awareness about the environmental consequences of certain types of coal mining," Roberts said. "The UMWA is on record in support of finding ways to mine coal that do not harm the environment or the communities where people live and work.
"But I also believe there are some in West Virginia who are using the mountaintop mining issue to push a much broader agenda - including the complete shutdown of the state's coal industry," Roberts said.