Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web


Published on Monday, August 28, 2017

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining - In or Out?


Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining - In or Out?

The US Environmental Protection Agency defines mountaintop removal coal mining as: “...a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.”

And while the practice is used across the nation, the detrimental effects it has on the environment can be absolutely devastating.

What is Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining?

This practice first began in Appalachia in the 1970s. It is currently being done in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. This is the preferred method for many companies as it allows for complete recovery of coal seams using a much smaller workforce than traditional methods.

There are six steps to mountaintop removal coal mining: clearing, blasting, digging, dumping waste, processing and reclamation. Clearing involves removing all of the topsoil and vegetation in preparation for mining. Sometimes trees are burned or illegally dumped, instead of being used for commercial purposes. In blasting, millions of pounds of explosives are used to blow through 600+ feet of mountain in order to access the coal. In digging, large draglines (machines used to move coal and debris) are brought in. Draglines stand up to 22 stories high, can hold up to 24 cars in their buckets, and can cost up to $100 million. During the dumping process, toxic mining waste is often illegally dumped into nearby valleys which lead to the pollution of lands and streams. The coal is then chemically treated during the processing stage. The leftover toxic sludge from processing is often left in the open where it is very dangerous and unstable. Lastly, companies are supposed to help reclaim the land by making way for economic development on the newly flat land. However, less than 3% of reclaimed mountaintop removal sites are actually used for this purpose.

What are the Effects of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining?

The Environmental Protection Agency admitted that the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining could be disastrous. They reported, “The impact of mountaintop removal on nearby communities is devastating. Dynamite blasts needed to splinter rock strata are so strong they crack the foundations and walls of houses. Mining dries up an average of 100 wells a year and contaminates water in others. In many coalfield communities, the purity and availability of drinking water are keen concerns.” Other concerns for communities near mountaintop removal sites include flooding, blasting and sludge dams.

Sadly, current mountaintop removal coal mining projects are taking place in some of the most biologically diverse areas of America. It’s also a region where many cities receive their drinking water from.

Few studies have been done on the long term environmental effects of mountaintop removal coal mining. This is mainly because such studies have been stalled by governmental red tape (more on that below). From studies that have been done, we’ve learned that 1200 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried or polluted from 1985-2001, over 800 square miles of mountains have already been destroyed and 7% of Appalachian forests have been cut down. A 2003 report also found that full reforestation on large mining sites could take hundreds of year, reconstruction of streams may not be possible and areas of water downstream of the mining sites were found to be more toxic.

Trump’s Latest Decision on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

While the preliminary findings on the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining are already concerning, more research is desperately needed. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case under the Trump administration.

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) commissioned a study on the new coal mining methods after a request from West Virginia officials in 2015. The OSM had committed $1 million to the two year study. But researchers were told to stop all work on the study immediately this summer.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift announced the change in plans explaining, “The Trump administration is dedicated to responsibly using taxpayer dollars and that includes the billions of dollars in grants that are doled out every year by the Department of the Interior. In order to ensure the department is using tax dollars in a way that advances the department's mission and fulfills the roles mandated by Congress, in April the department began reviewing grants and cooperative partnerships that exceed $100,000.”

In May, Trump announced plans to slash OSM’s 2018 budget by 49%. This response, and the halt on the study, directly align with Trump’s work to eliminate any projects that would halt or hamper coal production. Without more studies, mining companies will continue their dangerous mountaintop removal coal mining without any regard for the effects on the environment or local communities.

Rate this article:
No rating
Comments ()Number of views (583)

Author: AThompson

Categories: Blogs, Research, Energy & Power, Animals & Wildlife



Search Jobs


«January 2018»

Climate Change & The Poor: A Toxic Relationship

The impacts of climate change are undoubtedly affecting the world on a global scale. However, its effects are far more pronounced among the poor.

Read more

Pre-Historic Ticks

Ticks are some of the most aggravating parasites today but they've been around for millions of years - even long enough to feed on the blood of dinosaurs.

Read more

'The Cove' Nine Years Later

You may remember the uproar surrounding The Cove almost a decade ago. Today, the fishing community at the heart of the film has finally spoken up. 

Read more

Saving A Life

Watch this amazing footage of the rescue of a drowned puppy and the ingenuity, persistence, and passion of the man who saved it.

Read more

Winter Enviro-friendly Tips

This is the time of year for family, food, and holiday cheer. But it's also the season that produces the most waste. Here's how to get green over the holidays.

Read more

A Mesmerizing Flock

Have a look at this visually hypnotizing footage of one of nature's most arresting phenomenons - the flight of the flock of starlings. A gorgeous sight to behold!

Read more

The Controversy of Fracking

Fracking is in fact dangerous. Recent study proves that infants in areas surrounding fracking sites may suffer from permanent health effects and growth problems.

Read more

An Unobstructed Look Inside The Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA has long stood as one of the most powerful defenders of the health and safety of the environment and safety standards. A lot has changed. 

Read more

Master of Deception

Few living species can match the powers of deception and stealth quite like the amazing Zodrian spider - known for wearing the carcasses of their victims.

Read more

The Digital Impact: Bitcoin's Carbon Footprint

Bitcoin is becoming one of the most quickly growing cryptocurrencies today. But this new form of payment is more costly for the environment than you may think. 

Read more

Animals That Fit On Your Finger

There are few things as adorable and heartwarming as pint-sized pets. Here are just some of the most popular ones available today.

Read more

Amazing Fungus Breaks Down Plastic Within a Few Weeks

No doubt about it, plastics are amazing. But they're also particularly bad for the environment as they're tough to break down. A new study has a solution - fungus. 

Read more

Curious Bear Finds The Camera

Getting that perfect wildlife shot can be tough. That's why the BBC Earth team developed innovative spy cameras to catch each amazing moment, like the skiing cam. 

Read more

Baby Sea Turtle Treadmills

Light pollution has become a serious problem of modern living. And for turtles, it's even worse. That's why scientists devised this unique and adorable experiment. 

Read more

Consider This Before Your Next Virtual Shopping Trip

Online shopping has long been held in high regard as the more eco-friendly way to purchase. But e-commerce may actually be worse for our environment than you think.

Read more

Traffic Stopped by Silverback Gorillas

Silverback gorillas are amazing and beautiful creatures to be sure. Watch as a troop is filmed literally stopping traffic crossing a crowded road. 

Read more

China's Ivory Trade Ban: What It Means Going Forward

Elephant numbers have long been on the decline due to poaching for their tusks. But China's new ivory trade ban aims to curb that trend and protect these animals.

Read more

Hungry Deer Meets Delicious Snowman

Tis the season for snowmen to start popping up on front lawns. But don't leave carrots out for too long or you might get a hungry wildlife visitor.

Read more

The Future of Power: Solar Windows

While solar technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, one innovation in the industry is set to change the way we collect power forever - solar windows. 

Read more

Literally Swimming in Drugs

It's a tragedy that animals are trapped in our trash. But it's astounding that one turtle in particular was found wrapped up in over $53 million worth of cocaine.

Read more

Whose Responsible for Your Dirty Water?

Clean drinking water is supposed to be a right of every citizen in the nation. However, this right is often violated - and it isn't getting any better.

Read more

Global Warming & Cold Spells: What's the Connection?

When faced with bitter-cold weather, some people tend to think global warming isn't real. But in fact, global warming just may be the culprit behind dropping temps.

Read more

Spiders: Ancient & Amazing

Spiders have been producing silk for literally hundreds of millions of years. Take a look at just why these creatures and the silk they produce are so amazing. 

Read more

The Threat of Ocean Deoxygenation

We often hear of the widespread effects of pollution on the ocean and the life it holds. But there's another threat beneath the surface - ocean deoxygenation.

Read more

The Sun: An Introduction

The Sun is literally the source of life for everything on the planet earth. But what is that giant ball of light in the sky really? How does it work?

Read more


    Help Us Go Green
    Help Us Go Green