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At least thirty people were arrested in West Virginia Saturday as protesters marked a new phase of Operation Appalachian Spring, a campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. The protests came just a week after the Obama administration gave the green light for forty-two more mountaintop removal permits in a major victory for the coal industry.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the situation now with mountaintop removal.
JEFF BIGGERS: You know, Amy and Juan, we’ve—from my perspective, the Appalachian region has really reached a state of emergency. We’re talking, every day, three million pounds of ammonium nitrate fuel oil explosives are detonated in these areas. And this is not simply just ripping off mountains. You know, in the past thirty years, since Jimmy Carter signed the surface mining bill, we’ve lost over 500 American mountains. You know, a land mass the size of Delaware has been wiped out. Over 1,200 miles of streams have been sullied and jammed.
But we’ve reached the issue that this is a human rights issue. And I think that’s what was happening last week in West Virginia, that this incredible movement called Operation Appalachian Spring has really tried to bring it to the forefront, that we’ve reached an emergency, that people’s lives are on the line, that we have these massive coal slurry impoundments. And around them, they’re honeycombed with old abandoned mines. And now they’re beginning to blast near these coal slurry impoundments, and any day they could break, if some sort of blasting could reach them. And I think this is what the kids and the activists are trying to reach the people to say: “Hey, this is no longer an environmental issue; it’s a human rights issue.”
Source : Democracy Now
Mountaintop Removal Mining
One of the greatest environmental and human rights catastrophes in American history is underway just southwest of our nation's capital. In the coalfields of Appalachia, individuals, families and entire communities are being driven off their land by flooding, landslides and blasting resulting from mountaintop removal coal mining.
Mountaintop removal is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require.
Mountaintop removal involves clear cutting native hardwood forests, using dynamite to blast away as much as 800-1000 feet of mountaintop, and then dumping the waste into nearby valleys, often burying streams. While the environmental devastation caused by this practice is obvious, families and communities near these mining sites are forced to contend with continual blasting from mining operations that can take place up to 300 feet from their homes and operate 24 hours a day. Families and communities near mining sites also suffer from airborne dust and debris, floods that have left hundreds dead and thousands homeless, and contamination of their drinking water supplies.
Source : Appalachian Voices