Image Grok: Mountaintop Removal = Field of Dreams?
by Bill Chameides | October 7th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)
Good news for West Virginia — mountaintop removal proclaimed to be good for the state!
Or at least that’s what a WV coal group exec says. On Monday E&E Daily (sub req’d) reported that Jason Bostic of the West Virginia Coal Association, an industry group, claimed that “plateaus created by mountaintop mining operations provided development opportunities” otherwise not available. “If you really want to rob the economic future of Appalachia,” E&E quotes him as saying, “then take away the coal industry and the secondary benefit of the alternative land uses that follow.”
That’s the same message the industry has been proclaiming for more than a decade. Back in 1998, the mining industry ran a series of ads promising “West Virginia’s Own Field of Dreams.” As quoted in the Charleston Gazette, the ads say:
“Like the Iowa farmer in the movie, Field of Dreams, if we build the sites, they will come. And when they come they bring with them better jobs, housing, schools, recreation facilities, and a better life for all West Virginians.”
Pictures Tell the Story of West Virginia’s ‘Future According to Coal’
The first mountaintop removal (MTR) mine opened in West Virginia in 1970 on Bullpush Mountain, but the practice really took off after the oil shock of the early 1970s and a resurgent demand for coal. By 2006, almost 27 percent of the coal mined in West Virginia came from MTR mines. Precise numbers are hard to come by, but an oft-reported tally is that more than 500 Appalachian mountain tops have been removed so far.
An Economic Future Without Mountains?
For those who haven’t seen just how much mining coal via mountaintop removal changes the Appalachian landscape, take a look at these before and after photos from southern West Virginia. (Click on any photo for larger version.)
Before (Graham Mountain Foundation)
After (Graham Mountain Foundation)
And here’s what was left behind from a coal slurry pond.
(Nicholas School EcoTox Team )
More photos here.
An Economic Future of New Plateaus
Foul, cries the mining industry! No fair showing those pictures. Sure, the mountains are removed, but the land is reclaimed. In fact, it is argued that the flattened landscape left behind — euphemistically referred to as “plateaus” — is prime real estate for development. Per the 1977 U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, these plateaus were allowed with the intent that they be redeveloped for new industrial, commercial, agricultural, residential, or public facilities.
In the words of the Coalition for Mountain Mining, “mountaintop mining has also created numerous sites for new schools, hospitals, shopping centers, parks, golf courses, housing, airports, industry, agriculture and timber — providing southern West Virginia valuable sites for sustainable economic development.”
Here are two examples of those wonderful redeveloped sites (or plateaus) wrought by the coal-mining industry. And don’t forget that these pictures do not show the devastation to West Virginia’s rivers and streams from MTR. (A topic for another day.)
Twisted Gun Golf Course, Mingo County
(Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org)
Wind River Mine Site, Boone County
(Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org)
Wow, if I lived in West Virginia, with the future so bright, I’d have to wear shades.
Further Reading (and More Images)
- Grok Image Slide Show on Flickr – www.flickr.com/photos/26712235@N04/sets/72157622323060545/show/
- “Coal Controversy in Appalachia,” NASA – earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/MountaintopRemoval
- Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Reclamation Gallery – www.ohvec.org/galleries/reclamation/index.htm
- National Geographic’s “High Cost of Coal” Photo Gallery – ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2006/03/mountain-mining/farlow-photography
and: Grok Image, mountaintop removal, Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, West Virginia