Mountaintop Removal Mining

Thu, 2012-11-15 17:55Farron Cousins
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Patriot Coal To Stop Destructive Mountaintop Removal Mining In Appalachia

Patriot Coal, one of the largest coal companies in America, recently announced its decision to end mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in the Appalachian Mountains. 

To date, Patriot Coal is the only major coal company in America to pledge to stop mountaintop removal mining. On the surface, it might appear that the company has had a genuine change of heart, but the reality is that this decision was more out of economic necessity than concern for the environment and human health.

Several conservation groups, led by the Sierra Club, have pressured the company to end their destructive MTR practices for years, which resulted in numerous lawsuits filed against the company for environmental abuses.  Those lawsuits have led to millions of dollars worth of fines and verdicts against the coal giant, which in turn gave us its new, anti-MTR platform.

The company released the following statement regarding its decision:

Thu, 2012-09-13 13:54Farron Cousins
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Thousands Gather In DC To Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

Thousands of protestors descended on Washington, D.C. today to send a simple message to the Obama Administration – stop mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). The protestors included citizens from throughout Appalachia and representatives from more than a dozen environmental groups who were protesting in honor of longtime MTR opponent and environmental advocate Larry Gibson, who passed away a little over a week ago.

The protestors delivered a “Mountain Heroes Photo Petition” to the Obama Administration, a series of photographs of citizens declaring their opposition to MTR. At the time of delivery, more than 13,500 photo petitions were presented to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The event was organized by EarthJustice, which has advocated on behalf of Appalachian citizens for years. Here are a few of the photos that they submitted to the Obama Administration:

Thu, 2011-12-29 13:36Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: Coal

Most children already have a fear of coal – after all, they are threatened during childhood that if they misbehave, Santa Claus will leave them nothing but a lump of coal in their stocking. The older members of society, too, have plenty of reasons to fear coal as an energy source. Burning it pollutes our air and water and threatens our health. Mining it can be deadly for workers. And the entire life cycle of coal threatens the global climate.

When it comes to coal, two major issues dominated the environmental news front this year in particular: Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) and coal ash. While MTR has become an issue that most people are familiar with, the threats posed by coal ash remain largely under-reported (stay tuned for more on that in 2012).

As for MTR, here is a brief rundown of what’s happening:

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) entails blowing the tops off of entire mountains in order to extract the coal seems within. The method became popular when coal companies realized that they could produce two and a half times as much coal per worker hour by removing the tops of mountains, rather than traditional coal mining methods. As a result, some states have reduced the number of coal workers by as much as 60%, while output and profits have remained steady.

In addition to the obvious loss of mountains, the practice is riddled with environmental dangers. In order to extract the coal, the areas around the mountain are clear-cut, destroying wildlife habitat and leading to soil erosion. The waste products from the coal extraction also leak into water supplies, contaminating them with mercury, lead, sulfur, and other dangers chemicals. It is estimated that by the end of 2012, a staggering 2,200 square miles of the Appalachian Mountains will have been destroyed thanks to mountaintop removal mining.
Thu, 2011-08-18 05:30Josh Nelson
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Poll Shows Bipartisan Opposition in Appalachia

Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club released a poll yesterday showing that a majority of voters in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia oppose mountaintop removal coal mining. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research & Consulting from July 25-28, found that 57% of Appalachian voters oppose mountaintop removal mining while just 20% support it. This echoes the results of a poll released last week by CNN which found that 57% of Americans nationwide oppose the controversial practice.

“The survey data turns conventional wisdom on its head,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Associates. “Not only does it show Appalachian voters opposing mountaintop removal and by wide margins, it also underscores that voters in these states are now treating this as a voting issue, and promise to punish elected officials who weaken clean water and environmental regulations on mountaintop removal.” Here’s a chart of the findings:

Wed, 2011-07-27 11:49Farron Cousins
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Directly Linked To 60,000 Cancer Cases In Appalachia

A new study from the Journal of Community Health concludes that cancer rates in areas of Appalachia where mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is taking place are more than twice as high as areas that are not near MTR sites. According to the study, as many as 60,000 individual cancer cases can be linked directly to exposure from MTR debris.

As reported on Alternet, the study was the first of its kind to involve a door-to-door questionnaire, where researchers used community members’ own stories and medical records to determine the results. These door-to-door interviews were conducted in mountaintop removal mining areas, as well as non-coal mining counties for use as a control.

Thu, 2011-06-23 00:23Farron Cousins
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Linked To Birth Defects

Researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University have released a new report that links an increase in birth defects in Appalachia to the practice of mountaintop removal mining (MTR or MTM). The study shows that communities exposed to the wastes created by blowing up mountains to extract coal experience significantly higher instances of birth defects.

A press release on the new report summarized the findings as follows:

The study was based on analysis of over 1.8 million birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia. Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and ‘other’ types of defects. Spatial correlation between mountaintop mining and birth defects was also present, indicating that MTM activity in one county may have increased birth defect prevalence rates in surrounding counties.

Thu, 2011-06-16 14:15Laurel Whitney
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Stories From the March on Blair Mountain - Part 1 The March

I arrived a few days early to headquarters in Marmet, WV with an overly large pack that threatened to topple me over with one slightly unbalanced step. A sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothes, a bottle of Listerine, and ample bug spray would have to last me through the long and arduous journey of marching 50 miles along highways careening through the West Virginian Appalachians.

Over the next week, hundreds walked along the path of the original 1921 miners who rose up against the tyrannous coal companies in an attempt to unionize. In the 2011 March on Blair Mountain, community leaders, union members, and conservationists rallied to save the historical labor icon of Blair Mountain, sentenced for destruction via mountaintop removal mining (MTR).  We marched to protest against MTR and to advocate for safer working conditions and sustainable jobs for West Virginians, whose economy and proud natural landscape have been eroded by greedy coal barons.

Thu, 2011-06-16 12:41Farron Cousins
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Bobby Kennedy Jr. Talks "The Last Mountain" With Director Bill Haney

The companies involved in mountaintop removal mining (MTR) are beginning to get much-needed exposure in the national media. For years, this issue has been relegated to a few mentions here and there, with national media outlets virtually ignoring the devastation taking place in rural America. The media’s silence, and the public’s resulting lack of knowledge on the issue, has allowed a large number of the mountains in communities along the Appalachian range to be blown up and mined for every piece of coal the industry can find. As communities continue to fight MTR coal giants like Massey Energy and others, they are continuously faced with the devastation that these energy companies have left in their backyards.

The video below is from Ring of Fire Radio, and features a discussion between Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and documentary film director Bill Haney. The two are discussing their new film “The Last Mountain.

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