by Chuckie Corra, Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 05:57:51 PM EDT
(crossposted on FDL Seminal)
I have lived in West Virginia my entire life. In this beautiful mountainous state, one economic horse drives the economy: Coal. Coal mines employ many people in West Virginia, and across Appalachia, and are a crucial part to the region’s economic sustainability. It is coal that employs the people and powers the country, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
-A little bit of background is necessary-
Most can probably remember the horrible Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster earlier this year in Raleigh County, WV. The devastating catastrophe left many dead, and federal investigators searching for answers to the root causes of the explosion. Now I’ve done my fair share of blasting Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship (Massey Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the country) on the Seminal, but it has been completely necessary. The negligence with which his mines are handled have cost the lives of several miners. This is only one of many unfortunate consequences brought on by coal mining in the region known as Appalachia.
Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR) is a cheaper and more efficient way of mining coal, and works exactly like it sounds. Mountains, quite literally, have the tops blown off of them in order to expedite the coal mining process and make it more efficient. The mental image itself does quite a lot to illustrate the horrible effects it has on the mountains. Where once beautiful rolling hills full of plush green forest stood, now appears as leveled off dirt "quarry-like" areas of surface mining. . . .
Appalachia Rising is an event which is starting to catch on in the national scene. Here’s a piece of pertinent info mentioned on their website (AppalachiaRising.org)
Appalachia Rising, an event which will take place in Washington DC, September 25-27, 2010 is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia. Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining.
An important group that makes things like Appalachia Rising happen, and that bring MTR awareness to the people of Appalachia, is a foundation called The Keepers of the Mountain. The Keepers of the Mountain was created to help fund the efforts of "preserving and fostering the culture of mountains" and to help educate people about MTR by a man named Larry Gibson. Gibson lives next to Kayford Mountain, located in the southern part of West Virginia. He has been forced to watch the destruction of Kayford Mountain for several years, due to MTR mining on the mountain.
The destruction of these mountains comes at a price, not only aesthetically, but to the toll taken on the people who live near the sites. Many health related problems have come as a result of coal ash, and coal slurries etc. that make their way into the surrounding towns and cities near an MTR site.
Perhaps one of the worst ramifications, as described on ilovemountains.org, is that of sludge dams.
Sludge dams represent the greatest threat to nearby communities of any of the impacts of coal mining. Impoundments are notoriously leaky, contaminating drinking water supplies in many communities, and are also known to fail completely. A sludge dam breach in Martin County, KY, in 2000, sent more than 300 million gallons of toxic coal sludge into tributaries of the Big Sandy, causing what the EPA called, “The biggest environmental disaster ever east of the Mississippi.”
I hope those who read this don’t just write it off as something that they need not care about. The issue of Mountaintop Removal Mining is one that destorys communities, permanently effects the health of thousands, and eradicates the beautiful mountains that make Appalachia what it is.
If you’re around DC this weekend, take a trip to Capitol Hill and see what these people have to say. Appalachia Rising will be a great event, although I will not be able to attend it. To raise awareness for something so dire, action must be taken directly to where it will get publicity. The people of Appalachia need the help of not just others from around the country, but of the lawmakers in Washington as a whole to stop this catastrophe.