Mountaintop removal mining is a method of mining used mostly for coal extraction. The soil, plants, and wildlife removed in the process are usually placed back onto the mountain ridge, but occasionally are placed in another nearby location. However, the practice of removing and then replanting the soil and plants from the mountain rarely returns the mountain to its earlier state. Rather, mining byproducts are often left behind, adversely affecting the soil, plants, and wildlife in the area, as well as downstream.
In 2005, the EPA released a report estimating that over two thousand square miles of forest in the United States will be mined with mountaintop removal mining by 2012 (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-04-18-mines_N.htm).
Mountaintop mining is legal, so there is no existing legislation outlawing it. There are several instances of the courts ruling that the issuance of mountaintop removal mining permits violated environmental regulations, most notably the Clean Water Act. Most of the legislation or legal action to date has been on the effects of the mining process, and not directly on the act of mountaintop removal mining.
There is one case in 2008 of legislation introduced in North Carolina to stop mountaintop removal mining specifically. However, the bill was not passed (http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/5/28/17123/6269).
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