Minefields, Not Coalfields: Should Big Coal Change For Mountaintop Removal/Strip Mining?

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CommonDreams.org

Minefields, Not Coalfields: Should Big Coal Change For Mountaintop Removal/Strip Mining?

In a new episode of Big Coal Gone Wild last week, coal lobbyists announced their intentions to rebrand mountaintop removal mining as "mountaintop development."

For besieged residents living near mountaintop removal sites in Appalachia--and in the 20-odd states that allow strip-mining--this announcement has triggered another name suggestion:

Given that millions of pounds of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil explosives are detonated daily near historic American communities, should Big Coal-controlled areas be renamed as "minefields," and not coalfields.

Check out this typical detonation of one of our American mountains--in West Virginia, among over 500 that have been blown to bits to reach thin seams of coal--and decide:

Minefields is an apt name, in fact.

Notwithstanding the fact that an estimated 50-60 percent of the coal mining jobs have been eliminated by the shift to highly mechanized and explosive strip mining operations in the last 25 years, left local economies in ruin, and nearly 1.2 million acres of hardwood forests and adjacent settlements have been completely wiped by out the reckless mining operation, Rob Perks at the Natural Resources Defense Council notes:

NRDC's recent analysis found that the industry's promise of reclaiming flat land for economic development is a big, flat lie. Our study -- "Reclamation FAIL" -- revealed that of the 1.2 million acres, including 500 mountains, that have been demolished by coal companies in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee, over 89% of sites have no post-mining development.

Coal Tattoo journalist Ken Ward examined the veracity of mining industry claims this week.

Nearly a hundred years ago, a US soldier had a better chance of surviving in the fields of combat than a miner in West Virginia--over 104,000 coal miners have died in accidents and disasters, and an estimated 200,000 coal miners have died from black lung disease.

At a hearing last week in West Virginia, hundreds of citizens appealed to a new judicial panel to recognize the deleterious impact of coal slurry contamination of their drinking water.

Across the strip mined fields today, from Wyoming to Illinois to West Virginia, showers of toxic silica and coal dusts, fly rock, and thunderous blasting have turned communities into minefields of unthinkable levels of destruction.

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books). Follow him on twitter: @JeffRBiggers

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