Mountaintop Removal Mining

This a bit of a controversial topic, especially in the Appalachian area where so many jobs are at stake, but still worth mentioning. Mountain Justice Summer, a group I first heard of while climbing in Kentucky last year, advocates for the termination of mountaintop removal coal mining. Although the group tends to be a little fringe (engaging in some protest activities of questionable legality), the topic is still interesting. As the name implies, mountaintop removal mining involves literally chopping the top off of a mountain with explosives to get to the coal inside. kayfordmtn_260In addition to the obvious damage to the environment and ecosystem, the mining process produces all sorts of waste products that are allowed to run off into neighboring areas (a recent example of how this can go wrong is located here).

The difficulty with issues like this is that we need electricity, and a large portion of America’s electricity comes from coal. Furthermore, for the poverty-stricken Appalachian region, mining jobs form the backbone of the economy. Locals in the area are often upset by what they see as a push to close down the mines that provide their income by wealthy environmentalists. Regardless, as you can see from the picture, it has to stop.

3 Responses to Mountaintop Removal Mining

  1. roaninky says:

    Dear blogger,

    Please check your facts. Appalachia does not totally depend on coal jobs. The coal industry has employed fewer and fewer miners in recent decades. If Appalachia was so dependent on coal for the economy, why are so many people struggling? Trace the coal severance taxes. They do not, in most cases, go back to the counties where the coal was mined, but rather to the large urban centers in those states,… far away from the coalfields. Sir or Madam, regional economic dependence on the coal industry is one of the biggest lies spun by the coal corporations and their state government bedfellows. Coal is the worst thing that ever happened to the people in Appalachia, and except for the few still lucky enough to get the few good paying jobs left above ground or underground, mountain top removal is the worst environmental problem to ever occur in the entire southeast!

    Now as for your other comment about wealthy environmentalists. I would hardly qualify for wealthy. If I was so wealthy, I wouldn’t have student loan debt up to my eyeballs or drive a banged up car. I’d like to see all these “wealthy environmentalists” that you are speaking of, especially in Mountain Justice. If they were so rich, they could definitely support the movement better. Many of the folks in MJ are living below the poverty line, joining community residents on the front lines to fight MTR and the effects of coal on communities. For example, there are a lot of MJ/ United Mountain Defense people helping out at the coal disaster in Harriman/Kinsgton, TN. Where are their big salaries as volunteers, crashing on couches and exposing themselves to hazardous chemicals and the onslaught of misinformation from the TVA?

    Please, visit communities first hand that are ravaged by MTR. Humbly make friends with and visit the amazing people of the Coal River Valley who are fighting MTR. Better yet, come to a MJ meeting and see democracy take place! (MJ is run through consensus-based process and doesn’t believe in property destruction or other things that they deem unethical). Come visit us in Appalachia, talk to all kinds of people (pro-coal and those who are not) and then see if you continue to buy all those staid arguments.

    Dig deeper, for you are definitely on the right track. MTR is bad and has to stop. And Appalachia will, as a whole, be much better off for it. At least where I sit…

  2. cjdrover says:

    Dear Fellow Blogger,

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I knew everything about this issue: the post was made for a college course and meant to introduce the issue for discussion. I met several members of MJ last year while rock climbing in the Red River Gorge, which is when I first heard about MTR. I absolutely agree that regional dependence on coal mining is one the main talking from coal companies that are trying to maintain their near monopoly on energy resources.

    My comment about “wealthy environmentalists” was not meant to indicate that all environmentalists are wealthy, or that all local coal miners feel that way. I brought up that point only to illustrate that there are more sides to an issue than may present themselves at first glance.

    I pointed out activities that might be “of questionable legality” after viewing photographs on the MJ website of members pasting over billboards owned/leased by coal companies, an activity that is considered vandalism in most jurisdictions.

    I retract the generalizing statements I made, but again remember that the post was made to encourage the other members of the class to investigate the issue for themselves.



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