"They claim that their paper was intended to 'closely resemble' ours, but this is not the case," Hendryx said.
In his paper, Borak writes that, "to the extent that coal mining is a factor in defining the cultural fabric and socioeconomic environment of Appalachian communities, the coal-mining industry must play a role in efforts to increase economic diversity, develop job-creation programs, ensure access to appropriate health-care services, improve educational opportunities, and facilitate access to nutritious foods and diets."
Borak, in a phone interview, said that he believes it's more important for Appalachian leaders and communities to focus on fixing the region's serious economic and health problems than it is to argue over whether his study or Hendryx's work is correct.
"If he wants to say it's coal mining, he can say that, but I'm not sure he's correct," Borak said.
"There is a confluence of bad stuff that happens to these people," Borak said. "It is very difficult to distinguish the coal mining from the culture that surrounds them.
Richard Clapp, a retired professor of public health from Boston University, said that's exactly one of the problems with Borak's paper.
"The other factors these authors analyze are so intermixed with coal mining that it would be impossible to tease out coal mining as an 'independent risk factor' for mortality in Central Appalachia," Clapp said.
The National Mining Association has not issued any formal statements about Borak's paper. Last week, Bruce Watzman, vice president of the NMA, updated association members about the study in a note that was posted, and then removed, from a mining consultant firm's public website.
"We are advised that Dr. Borak has discussed the story with The Associated Press and that an article may be forthcoming," Watzman wrote. "It would be advisable that we defer to him to ensure the proper characterization of the study methodology and findings."
A coalition of coal companies has contributed $15 million to a multi-university effort to re-examine Hendryx's research and the work of other scientists who reported that mountaintop removal is damaging the environment.
"I think [Hendryx] is the object of a witch hunt," said University of California, San Francisco, professor Dr. Stanton Glantz, whose research on smoking's health effects has made him a frequent target of the tobacco industry.
Glantz said he read several of Hendryx's papers, Borak's previous critique of Hendryx and the published Borak study and wasn't impressed by the criticisms of Hendryx.
"There is no perfect study," Glantz said. "I can take any study -- including everything I've ever done -- and find things wrong with it. The National Mining Association is just nitpicking at minor problems that aren't really that important."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.