Mountaintop removal, and why it might be time to stop!

Mountaintop removal is a safer way of mining coal than digging a mine, but West Virginia should really consider the reasons why we should stop this process.

  • It destroys the beauty of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is done by surface mining the tops of mountains and ridge lines. While West Virginia has plenty of hills and mountains, these spots will never be the same once they are mined. Powerful explosives are used to get 400 vertical feet under the surface of the dirt, and then the dirt is thrown into a valley. Once all mining is done the mountain is supposed to be put back the way it was found, but it will never be the same. The vegetation will taka long time to come back or may never come back at all. While the dirt is being pushed into the valley it can hold back head water of rivers as well. In the time that mountaintop removal has been practiced 2,000 miles of streams have been compromised and by 2020, close to 1.4 million acres of forest and mountaintops will have been compromised

Mountain top removal

This is a drawing of the mountain before any works is done.

Moutain top removal 2

This is the mountain after the hole is blasted and dirt begins to be shoved into the valley.

  • There is evidence now of health issues in those surrounding areas where mountain top removal has gone on. West Virginia legislature is looking into reports that those who live near these areas experience health problems like birth defects, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems.  There are over 24 peer reviewed reports on the subject that environmentalist are hoping will take into account. Small rock particles, silica, and heavy metals have been found at ground level near these mines, which worries those surrounding them. The heavy metals,  such as cadmium, selenium, and arsenic get into the water system and could be what is making people sick.
  • It’s bad for wildlife. While the water is compromised by the heavy metals coming from the mining, it can make wildlife sick or even kill them by poisoning their blood stream. Aquatic animals are already under attack because of the dirt pushed into the valley that takes up the water heads. There also is a lack of vegetation due to the clearing to blast the mountain, and even when it restored it could take years or may never grow back. Lack of vegetation will send wild life else where or may even starve them out. A lot of West Virginia families depend on hunting seasons to stock their freezers for the year.

The thought behind mountaintop removal is that it saves lives, but clearly it may not. If something isn’t done West Virginia and all the Appalachian states are going to continue to lose their beauty, health, and wildlife.

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5 thoughts on “Mountaintop removal, and why it might be time to stop!

  1. WV miners are taking the Mountain our of “Mountain State.” I had heard of mountaintop removal, but only positive things. It was a much safer and more efficient wait to mine coal. Based on this post, I think it should definitely be rethought. There are so many dangers that accompany mountaintop removal. It’s scary to see the possible effects it could have on people living nearby, those should be reason enough to convince legislation to put a stop to this. This post was very informative, I think the state of West Virginia is only talking about the good of this process, when we can see there is a lot of bad. Hopefully after investigative the health issues, legislation will find an alternative to this process and keep the “Mountain State” as is.

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  2. The United States need energy. We get that. But aren’t the downsides of mountaintop removal such as destroyed mountains, health issues and wildlife risks serious enough rethink the process? I think so. Scenic mountains and rivers are the main attraction of this state.
    “Almost heaven, West Virginia
    Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river”
    The song says enough. I also agree that this process is responsible for water contamination, which is causing health issues among citizens and wildlife of our state. It’s so sad, and definitely a process to reconsider.

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  3. I just don’t know where the medium is. West Virginia mines coal for decades, that becomes unsafe, so then they move on to mountain top removal (with the mindset that it is safer), now that becomes unsafe too. I get that we need to find a safe alternative to obtain energy, but is there a safer alternative? I just feel like this is a never ending trend, that will continue to go on. It definitely sucks for people living in those surrounding areas, that’s why I really have no opinion on the matter (because I know that I wouldn’t want to be one of them). Either way, it’s going to suck for somebody; whether it be the health of the people living in those areas, or the scenic experience that West Virginia is known for that everyone benefits from. If legislation is passed to halt mountain top removal, what will we do next? I have a feeling it will just lead to another solution that ends up being unsafe as well. I guess my real question is, have scientists (or whoever thinks of these ideas) come up with even the slightest bit of an idea for a safer alternative if mountain top removal is to be stopped? This is where I’m confused, and most likely the rest of the state. I guess I can see both sides to the argument is what I’m saying. We need energy, but we need to do it safely, and as of now, there isn’t a safe way to do it. So what do we do?

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  4. Yes, mountaintop removal is awful. Yes, mining coal from a traditional mine is dangerous. The business of extracting fossil fuel resources is a dirty one. But the state of West Virginia is in a pickle. The residents depend on these jobs in certain areas. Where is the story about how Nicholas County couldn’t pay for police for 12 hours because of a lack of funds? The WV State Police had to take over duties. With the coal industry, the state can’t have both. You either die from working in a mine, or you die from the environmental effects of mountaintop removal. If I had to pick one, I’d go with traditional mining. As long as it’s done right with proper regulation, it can be done safely. But what sounds better than any of this is a transition to natural gas.

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  5. Safety is always an major factor when it comes to the mining industry. There have been plenty of disasters in underground mines that killed many of the miners who work there. However, these companies need to understand that they need to protect the people around the sites as well. I have experienced an abandoned mountain top mine before and the place looked nothing like it should have. The few plants that were there looked dead and there were no animals around. The site had things left over from the mine still present. If these companies are going to use mountaintop removal methods there need to be stricter regulations on how they clean up afterwards.

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