How do they put the mountain top back on after they cut it off?

Mountain Topping:  An alternative mining technique to digging into a mountain to extract valuable ores.  Rather than tunnel, the mountain top is scraped to reveal buried ore. Cutting through successive thin layers efficiently exposes the ore while the mountain top is dumped, slice by slice, into neighboring valleys. 

Some think that the destruction of  nature happens in third -world countries with limited legal protections.  On the contrary, great areas of the united states have been ravaged by open pit mining and not restored to their original states.  How could they?  Once a mountain top is turned upside down in a neighboring valley,  not only is the mountain irrecoverable but all of the pollution created by mining is buried where the creek used to be.

Appalachia Turns on Itself

By JASON HOWARD, Published: July 8, 2012, Berea, Ky.t »

ANYONE traveling on Interstate 77 just north of Charleston, W.Va., can’t miss the billboard perched high above the traffic, proclaiming “Obama’s No Jobs Zone,” a reference to increased regulations on the coal industry and mountaintop removal mining. Like countless other bits of pro-coal propaganda that have sprouted over the last few years across Appalachia, the sign is designed to inflame tensions — and by all counts, it’s working.

Appalachia is engaged in a civil war of sorts over coal, with miners and their families pitted against environmental activists. The central issue is mountaintop removal, a radical form of strip mining that has left over 2,000 miles of streams buried and over 500 mountains destroyed. According to several recent studies, people living near surface mining sites have a 50 percent greater risk of fatal cancer and a 42 percent greater risk of birth defects than the general population.

Despite the evidence, the coal industry and its allies in Washington have persuaded the majority of their constituents to ignore such environmental consequences, recasting mountaintop removal as an economic boon for the region, a powerful job creator in a time of national employment distress.

Of course, since mountaintop removal is heavily mechanized, the coal industry is the real job killer — and, until recently, miners would have been suspicious of any claim to the contrary. For decades the companies had fought the miners’ efforts to unionize, resulting in violent strikes.

After finally recognizing the union, King Coal opposed its demands for things like a living wage, health insurance, safety precautions and measures to curb the alarming rates of black lung disease. The strategy was simple: the companies would buy off individual communities and leaders, exchanging meager payouts for silence or even support against the more adamant activists.

The presence of the United Mine Workers of America helped stymie such tactics. But now, with a mere 25 percent of miners belonging to the union, the allegiance of miners has largely shifted to the coal companies. The old divide-and-conquer strategy is back. This time, it’s a matter of pitting workers against their erstwhile allies in Washington: increased environmental regulations — a hallmark of the Obama Environmental Protection Agencyfollowing eight years of lax guidelines and enforcement under President George W. Bush — are branded as a war on coal miners.

At the same time, dissent against King Coal is increasingly greeted with open hostility and harassment.

Larry Gibson, who has been fighting for years to save his ancestral land and family cemetery from being mined, has faced vandalism and arson; two of his dogs were killed, and he says someone tried to run him off the road. Bullet holes are visible on the side of his trailer, the handiwork, he says, of angry miners misled into believing that he was the enemy.

Judy Bonds, an activist who died last year, was physically attacked by a miner’s wife during a 2009 rally against a leaking three-billion-gallon sludge pond perched just 400 feet above an elementary school. An outspoken grandmother, Ms. Bonds faced repeated death threats and intimidation, inspiring her daughter to give her a stun gun for Christmas.

In 2010, mountaintop removal supporters in Kentucky erected a giant poster disparaging the actress Ashley Judd, an Appalachia native and activist, following a speech critical of the practice. The sign featured a photo of a semi-nude Ms. Judd and read: “Ashley makes a living removing her top. Why can’t coal miners?”

Perhaps the most disturbing story of anti-activist harassment is that of Maria Gunnoe. A native of Boone County, W.Va., Ms. Gunnoe once found her photograph on unofficial “wanted” posters plastered around her hometown. In another incident, last month, while testifying before Congress, Republican staffers accused her of possessing child pornography after she tried to present a photograph of a 5-year-old girl being bathed in contaminated, tea-colored water.

There is no easy resolution to the fraught relationship between the coal industry and the people of Appalachia, many of whom rely on it for jobs even as it poisons their region. But it is imperative that the industry’s leaders and their elected allies lay down their propaganda and engage in an honest, civil dialogue about the issue. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Jason Howard is a co-author of “Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal.”

About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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3 Responses to How do they put the mountain top back on after they cut it off?

  1. ritaroberts says:

    Hi Carlos, This is such a moving post that I have put it onto Twitter for all to see. Your story conjures up total devastation and I feel sorry for all concerned. Its outrageous.

    • carlos says:

      God forbid there should be an archaeological site on the top of that mountaintop. The mining company manager might just “overlook” it, after all he is paid to mine, not identify remains. This, unhappily, is not just in the US, but in Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, and even Canada’s boreal forest. Man is a rapacious animal.

    • carlos says:

      Thank you Rita! I’ve been occupied with many things lately and have posted little over the past few months. We just finished a wrenching political season the results of which will have lasting impact. I even read “Atlas Shrugged” to gain some insight into the mindset of those who would have us live as lived England of Hobbes and Locke. As you may know the US constitution is a product of that time. Hopefully, the future looks promising here although much of Europe is suffering under the austerity demands. The 14th is the day of the general strike, which should be interesting.

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