Mountaintop Removal: A Public Discussion

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About 60 people gathered at the Winter Sun Hall on Thursday evening for a presentation and public discussion on the environmental impact and health effects of mountaintop removal mining. Following a potluck on the Dogtown Roadhouse porch, local organizer Theresa Gigante greeted attendees and thanked local businesses who made donations in support of the event.

Seven guest panelists representing citizen action groups, including Mountain Justice, Climate Ground Zero, and The Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards explained the practice of strip mining, a technique that began in the 1970’s that uses explosives and large earth moving machinery to extract coal from the ground. Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining in which the summits of mountains are blown off in order to expose underlying coal seams for extraction. The rubble (overburden) that results is dumped into nearby valleys, covering up head water streams and river systems and drying up wells. Toxic mining byproducts from mountaintop removal and coal processing have poisoned nearby drinking water. Airborne toxins and dust associated with the practice are also a health problem.

A slide show presentation shown at the event outlined strip mining and mountaintop removal operations that have impacted thousands of acres of Appalachian Mountains. A map showed the direct relationship between mining sites and our region’s source of electricity. Panelists shared the work their groups are doing to bring attention to the issue, which includes legislative work, picketing and protesting, non-violent acts of civil disobedience, building coalitions, supporting impacted communities and assisting them to develop economies that don’t rely on jobs from the coal indus...

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...mining coming in and companies driving unions into the ground,” said Roanoke panelist Jasper Conner, a member of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

More publicity, developing alternative energy sources, and changing the climate of government were some of the suggestions raised. Attendees were invited to participate in a mobilization effort to abolish mountaintop removal mining, organized by Appalachia Rising ( The weekend of actions will take place in Washington D.C. on September 25 –27. “What does solidarity from Floyd look like?” a panel member asked. “We have resources. We can help you organize. We can get you a bus,” she offered.

“I think it’s pathetic that we can’t fish out of our streams,” said Sid Moye, Wendy Johnston’s father. “I can’t believe I spent 41 years doing nothing about this,” Johnston concluded.

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