Mountaintop mining is incredibly destructive to the environment. It is basically stripping everything such as trees and andy wildlife, leveling it, then pulverizing whatever earth remains, and finally harvesting that to burn for energy. The remaining rubble and waste cause problems downstream when the rains come. This removal causes more than an eyesore, it is devastating to any living beings in the area.
Moutaintop mining is a process of blowing off the top of the mountain with explosives. that means blowing everything up. the vibrations are felt for miles around and any houses within that paramiter are shaken and alot of the homes have walls and foundations that are cracked. the rains do carry everything don the hill and the streams and lakes and resevoirs at the bottom are so polluted that they are no longer usable for anything, not drinking or bathing or washing of clothes. The whole area is totally destroyed. What used to be beautiful, pristine land is basically unlivable.
Mountaintop Mining is an temporary land use. Like any construction site, it isn’t very pretty to look at, however, it provides the coal our nation needs to fuel its economy. Currently, coal provides approximately 48 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption.
First, mountaintop mining is not the correct term for the practice you are obviously discussing. The correct phrase is “mountaintop removal mining” — which is one of three primary forms of surface mining (all of which are “mountaintop mining” in Appalachia): area, contour and mountaintop removal.
Only in true mountaintop removal is the entire top of the mountain removed down to the coal seam. Contour mining essentially involves making a deep cut around the mountain to get to the coal seam, while leaving the center spine (ridge) intact. Area mining is much the same as contour except on a larger scale. Each of these mining methods may be employed on the same operation.
The images of mountaintop mining (all three types) in Appalachia is that of a huge hole in the ground or a large flat area devoid of all life … but that is not accurate … at least in terms of the future of the site.
These sites are not left scarred and barren. Rather they are restored either to approximate original contour or left in a configuration for use by local and state economic development officials as sites for homes, businesses, recreational facilities, schools, etc.
When no alternate land use is desired, the sites are restored. The mountain ridges are rebuilt and resculpted, streams are engineered and restored, grasses and trees (a native mix of soft and hard wood) are planted and the whole area quickly returns to a naturalized state.
There are numerous places in West Virginia (the oldest reclaimed surface mines) where it is virtually impossible to tell where the mining actually took place. In fact, we are working with the American Chestnut Foundation to utilize our former mine sites in the reintroduction of the American chestnut tree to its former range. Wildlife thrives on these former sites, and in many cases the current surface mining actually cleans up old mine waste left in the area from the early 1900s, when laws to protect the environment were virtually non-existent.
You hear a lot about “valley fills” related to mountaintop mining, but these fills are not really “valley” fills at all. These fills occur high up on the sides of mountains in the little defiles that ripple on the slopes. The “streams” that are filled are not rivers, lakes or even creeks. They are water courses (ie. ditches) that only run intermittently, whenever it rains or during snow melt.
There is a lot more to say about “mountaintop mining” but the bottom line is that the damage that is done is temporary in nature and in many cases the result is an improved watershed because old pre-law mining waste is removed during the restoration phase of operations.
On the other sides of the equation, I would note that much is said about the need of West Virginia to develop and diversify its economy away from coal. No where is the desire to see a developed and diversified economy felt more deeply than among those of us in the coal industry.
Study after study has shown that the two biggest obstacles to economic development in West Virginia are geographic constraints and the high cost of site preparation. Most of southern West Virginia can be characterized as a narrow valley floor (100 yards to a 1/2 mile wide) with a road, a river and a railroad running through it. The valley floor itself is almost entirely a 20 year flood plain. The mountainsides are often a 60 degree slope or more.
Obviously this severely limits the amount of available land for homes, schools, businesses, communities. No business can afford to invest millions of dollars on a site that might flood in 20 years — or next year. You can’t build on the mountainside and it is extremely expensive to build on the mountaintop unless the site preparation is done by mining companies who can do the prep work as part of a mining operation.
Across our state and region, we have numerous examples of former surface mine land being used for economic development. We could do much more with it but only recently have state and local officials actively begun to “plan” for the future and realize that the coal industry can be an effective partner.
The industry welcomes this role. While we cannot lead the effort, we can be the source of the readily developable land so needed for economic development and diversification.
I would ask that you put aside precenceptions and take a second look at the issue. It is easy for a reporter to go up in a plane, shoot a couple of shots of a hole in the ground and write a story about the “evils of mountaintop mining” but telling the whole story takes a bit more time and isn’t as sexy as the “big hole in the ground.”
Mountaintop removal coal mining, like all coal mining and ultimately all sources of energy, can have harmful effects on surrounding ecosystems, and mountaintop removal in particular faces serious challenges due to the need to dispose of the “spoil” from explosions used to fracture and remove rock from atop the coal formation, and the effect of the spoil and of mountain habitat destruction on surrounding ecosystems, particularly streams and the people and wildlife that depend on them.
Even though the damage caused by a mountaintop removal or other strip mining project could be called “temporary,” it is important to keep in mind that replanting trees on top of a disused mining site is not the same as restoring the ecosystem that was lost in the process of constructing and operating the mine. Every individual tree hosts an entire community of organisms, and once the ecosystem is destroyed, it is inevitable that some of the creatures present in the web of life will no longer be present once the project has taken place, as is the same with nuclear disasters, major oil spills, clear-cutting of forests, and any other ecologically destructive human activity (see attached Youtube video).
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