Mountaintop Coal Removal:
The Effects that this Growing Practice is having on Appalachia Tyler DiNapoli
Jefferson Community and Technical College
Mountaintop removal is currently the most commonly used form of mining throughout Appalachia and it has a significant impact on life there. These different effects are environmental, physical, mental, emotional, and economical. While mountaintop removal may be safer for the miners themselves, the big question is how mountaintop removal is affecting the very way of life of the people of Appalachia
Mountain top removal (MTR) is slowly destroying the environment and reshaping the way that Appalachia has looked for thousands of years. Over 500 mountains have been flat lined to provide mountain top coal mines. (Amy, n.d.) If this process was happening in a more upscale part of the country then it might be a bigger issue and draw more attention to the need for change. Most of West Virginia relies solely on coal mining to be its biggest export and one of the very few jobs available to the masses that pays a good salary so even though this practice is extremely harmful people are forced to take a part in it. Harmful byproducts are destroying the environment; entire species of animals are disappearing from the ecosystem. These harmful byproducts are also damaging the health of the people that are exposed them by polluting water systems and forcing them to breathe carcinogenic dust.
Mountaintop removal coal mining is the process where thousands of pounds of dynamite are used to completely blow up the top of a mountain and reveal all the coal seams that lay beneath the surface. Then large machines are used to dragline the mountain and force all the dirt and debris into the adjoining valley. More than 40% of MTR mines are in Appalachia, with 283 in West Virginia and 449 in Kentucky. (Mc Glynn,2011) MTR is so popular because it doesn’t require having to go deep into cave to mines for coal, it is a much cheaper practice, requires less man power and is safe for the miners themselves. This form coal mining became prevalent when the coal companies learned about the safety benefits of it for miners and the cost effectiveness of this practice. Traditional mining practices require much more risk an 40 miners were killed in a mine explosion in 2010. (Mc Glynn,2011) Mining has always been a dangerous practice throughout history with very few adjustments to practices of safety regulations so when big name coal companies like Massey started tearing apart mountains to rip into the seams of coal then it really started to become a big practice. Though it is not completely safe either, in 2000 a slurry dam broke and flooded the Big Sandy River in eastern Kentucky. (Amy,n.d.) “In the American imagination, Appalachia exists as a wholly formed entity,one created by generations of stereotypes and condescension.” (Fraley,2007) Appalachia is a very back woods part of the country that most people think poorly of and try to turn a blind eye to a lot. That could be a reason that this practice has been allowed to go on for so long without a big outrage throughout the country. Imagine if a wealthy family is Maine was forced to leave their home because a coal company wanted to blow it up and completely destroy their way of life. It would be a huge deal and more than likely be stopped fairly quickly but in a place that doesn’t have a lot of money and the people are looked down upon as lowly rednecks, it is easier to let it happen than to stand up and fight alongside them. The environmentalists that are fighting MTR frequently run into problems with trying to help the people of Appalachia who rely so heavily on the practice to provide the region with the economic stability that it otherwise lacks. Appalachia has always relied heavily on coal mining for one of their biggest cash products and basis of their economy. This means that almost everyone knows someone that works in a...
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