From Mountaintop to Moonscape

Ward, Jr., Ken
August 2005
Planning;Aug/Sep2005, Vol. 71 Issue 8, p28
Trade Publication
The article focuses on the effect of mountaintop removal mining on environment in West Virginia. In West Virginia and across the Appalachian coalfields, companies are literally moving mountains to get at the coal. Thousands of acres of once-rugged hills and hollows are being flattened or left with gently rolling hills. Hundreds of miles of streams are being buried with waste rock and dirt. Biologists fear for the long-term health of the biologically rich region and rare forests. In the process, operators are moving more earth annually for mining than for any other human activity, including construction, according to one recent scientific study. Mountaintop removal is just what its name implies. Coal operators blast apart hilltops to uncover valuable, low-sulfur coal seams buried below. Huge shovels and bulldozers move in to dig out the coal. Leftover rock and dirt is shoved into nearby valleys. In 2003, West Virginia produced about 146 million tons of coal with fewer than 15,000 working miners. Two decades earlier, the state produced nearly a third less coal, but with twice as many miners. As in many industries, efficiency and increased profits have come at a cost to workers.


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