Mountaintop Removal Myth: a summary

moun­tain­top coal min­ing oper­a­tion in West Vir­ginia. Pho­to­graph: Man­del Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

From Beth Welling­ton at the Guardian.

CNN cor­re­spon­dent Soledad O'Brien's recent piece on moun­tain­top removal (MTR) in the Appalachi­an moun­tains has the trou­bling title, "Steady job or healthy envi­ron­ment: what [sic] would you choose?"

How about we choose both?

In any case, MTR does not, despite indus­try claims, deliv­er employ­ment to off­set its envi­ron­men­tal dam­age. It's sim­ply a win-win for Big Coal and its polit­i­cal sup­port­ers, and a lose-lose for ordi­nary peo­ple who live inmin­ing areas. What­ev­er the indus­try would have you believe, bas­ing an econ­o­my on coal is not a sus­tain­able devel­op­ment plan. A study by the Appalachi­an Region­al Com­mis­sion not­ed the effects of min­ing on employ­ment in Cen­tral Appalachia:

"As employ­ment in Cen­tral Appalachia's min­ing sec­tor has declined over time…many coun­ties that were already typ­i­cal­ly expe­ri­enc­ing rel­a­tive­ly poor and ten­u­ous eco­nom­ic circumstances…have been unable to suc­cess­ful­ly adapt to chang­ing eco­nom­ic conditions."

Michael Hendryx and Melis­sa M Ahern found sim­i­lar results when they inves­ti­gat­ed the region: "The heav­i­est coal min­ing areas of Appalachia had the poor­est socio-eco­nom­ic conditions."

In addi­tion to the neg­a­tive impact on employ­ment, moun­tain­top removal has ter­ri­ble effects on the land. Rob Good­win of Coal Riv­er Moun­tain Watch recent­ly said of the land around South­ern Appalachia:

"South­ern Appalachia is unique. Because there were no glac­i­ers here, the top­soil is some of the old­est in the world and that's why there are ramps, gin­seng and mol­ly moochers [morels], among oth­er valu­able species. What you are doing here on this mine site is destroy­ing the 10,000-year-old species that, regard­less of what you do, will not grow back."


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