Mountaintop Removal Mining Has Obliterated 700 Miles of US Streams

700 miles. That's a long ways--nearly a quarter of the entire length of the United States. And that's the length of the nation's streams that have been filled in with debris--utterly ruined by the devastating practice known as mountaintop removal mining.


Mountaintop removal mining has grown in precedence, especially in the Appalachian Mountains, since the 1960s, when it started becoming too difficult and too costly to extract coal from underground mines. If you're unfamiliar with the practice, it's exactly what it sounds like. Coal companies literally use dynamite or other explosives to blow off the top of a mountain--excuse me, 'remove' it.

A new scientific study has revealed exactly what happens next: trees are obliterated, bodies of water contaminated, wildlife scattered, nearby residents become more likely to get cancer, and, yes, streams are completely filled in with debris and choked off. In short, it's an atrocious practice with a massively negative impact on the Appalachian wilderness. And it's no surprise that the environmental movement is adamantly opposed to such mining.

What is surprising is that everyone--other than coal executives profiting off if, of course--isn't opposed to this disgrace of a practice. Never before have corporations given environmentalists so vivid an example of 'raping the earth', so willingly caricatured themselves as villainous barons who would stop at nothing to reap monetary gains.

I mean, come on--they're literally blowing up wilderness with explosives. I challenge them to frame that in a positive light in any way possible. C'mon guys, get creative. I'm listening. Tell me how blasting pristine wilderness with dynamite is acceptable.

The good news is, the tide has long been turning against mountaintop removal mining. And now, the aforementioned article published in the latest issue of Science magazine has for the first time established a scientific basis for halting it. The New Republic sums it up well:

a group of ecologists, hydrologists, and engineers do the first thorough review of all the evidence to date on the effects of mountaintop removal, and it's a ghastly picture. More than 700 miles of Appalachian streams have been filled in by debris, and as a result, contaminants and heavy metals have seeped into waterways and wells. Heavy mining areas are associated with higher rates of lung cancer, chronic heart disease, and mortality. And the loss of trees and topsoil has made the region much more vulnerable to heavy flooding.


Their conclusion? That mountaintop removal mining should be completely banned. Now, there's definitive proof that mountaintop removal mining is bad for everyone: the wildlife, the mountain ecosystems, the streams, the nearby residents, the miners themselves. Everyone but the coal execs who will continue to use their vast resources to keep this unrealistically cheap method of getting coal alive and well. It's high time we stopped them.

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