Mountaintop Removal

Mountaintop removal mining is a form of surface mining that requires the removal of the summit or summit ridge of a mountain in order to permit easier access to the coal seams. After the coal is extracted, the overburden (soil, lying above the economically desired resource) is either put back onto the ridge to approximate the mountain’s original contours or dumped elsewhere, often in neighboring valleys.  Mountaintop removal is most closely associated with coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States.  Peer-reviewed studies show that mountaintop mining has serious environmental impacts that mitigation practices cannot successfully address, including loss of biodiversity, as well as human health impacts from contact with affected streams or exposure to airborne toxins and dust.


Poll: Appalachian voters oppose mountaintop mining, back regulation By Ben Geman – 08/16/2011; The Hill’s Energy & Environment Blog (Green groups released a poll of Appalachian voters Tuesday that shows opposition to “mountaintop removal” coal mining and backing for politicians that favor tougher environmental regulation of the controversial practice.  “On this measure … public opinion crosses typical political boundaries, including 64% of Democrats, 60% of independents, and even a 51% majority of Republicans,” states a summary of the poll by the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research & Consulting.)

Video and Photos

  • Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining (Appalachian communities are suffering as a result of mountaintop removal mining. Earthjustice is working through the courts to protect Appalachian communities from this destructive practice and to ensure the Clean Water Act is enforced.)
  • Mountain Top Mining in West Virginia (NASA Earth Observatory) Below the densely forested slopes of the Appalachian Mountains in southern West Virginia is a layer cake of thin coal seams. To uncover this coal profitably, mining companies engineer large—sometimes very large—surface mines. This time-series of images of a surface mine in Boone County, West Virginia, illustrates why this controversial mining method is also called “mountaintop removal.”
  • Mountaintop Removal Mining, Charleston, WV (June 9, 2009; This video clip highlights the destructive process of strip mining of Appalachian mountains near Charleston, WV. Once mountains are blasted with dynamite to access…)

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