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Mountaintop Mining is a legal, highly regulated, and complex engineered earthmoving
process for the surface mining of multiple steep slope coal seams in central Appalachia.
This environmental y responsible method employs mining in the most efficient manner
for the purpose of electricity generation and/or steel production, thereby strengthening
our nation’s competitive economic power and national security.
Life is thriving..
on West Virginia’s reclaimed mine sites.
Walker Machinery Company is responsible for Caterpil ar
equipment sales and service in 25 West Virginia counties and
eight southeastern Ohio counties. The major markets served
include coal, construction, forestry, and natural gas with
coal revenues ranging from 70-75% of sales. Over the years,
environmental regulation has actually increased the sales
of equipment in our territory. Today, however, new political
and social agenda are poised to wipe out our entire regions’
livelihood. In our view, abolishing mountaintop mining would
destroy our markets and effectively eliminate the jobs of our
800 families that now have great healthcare, retirement,
Beautiful Restoration in Boone County, WV.
and wage benefits. Our 50 million dollar annual payroll and
hundreds of mil ions spent with local vendors is critical to our
regional economy. Devastatingly, hundreds of businesses and
thousands of individuals would be in similar circumstances. The
spiraling economic wreckage would make for certain financial
and energy crisis. These are the indisputable facts. This is
especial y tragic in that mountaintop mining is not destroying
our environment as perpetuated by coal’s opponents. This
brochure, whose images are from mountaintop mining sites,
hopes to dispel the myths and half truths by offering a more
informed and contextual view and explanation of mining and
restoration. References to surveys are those conducted by
Mark Blankenship Enterprises 2008-2009.
Restoration in progress under Abandoned
Rock core construction enhances
Mine Land programs, southern WV.
water resources, southern WV.
© Walker Machinery Co., 2009
The contents of this brochure are protected by
copyright and cannot be reproduced in any manner.
There are two methods to mine
coal...underground and surface.
The preference to do one over the other is dictated by
geology and economics. Coal that is suitable for surface
mining generally cannot be mined economically by under-
ground methods. Typical y this is because the seams are not
thick enough to use underground equipment and often the
rock strata are not stable enough to prevent roof falls which
jeopardize miner safety. Coal within 300-800 feet of the surface
can be mined safer, faster, with less waste, and lower cost
using surface mining methods. It’s just that simple.
West Virginia’s coal production is approximately 58%
underground mining and 42% surface mining. Surface mining
13 coal seams exist above this mine portal.
can take three forms in West Virginia: (1) Contour mining (2)
Area mining, and (3) Mountaintop mining. All surface mining
Surface mine coal seams cannot be
in WV today is generally referred to as “mountaintop mining.”
mined by underground methods.
It is interesting to note that reduced surface mining wil in fact
reduce underground mining. Coal companies utilize the roads,
utilities, coal handling infrastructure, railways, and lower cost
economics of surface mining to get to the more expensive
underground coal. Additionally, the necessity to blend
surface coal with underground coal allows electric utilities
to create coal with specific qualities that produce more
complete combustion with electricity generation. This reduces
air pol utants and carbon dioxide emissions as power plant
Large hydraulic shovels, wheel loaders,
bulldozers, and trucks remove overburden.
Wheel loaders remove coal from seams
and load onto coal hauling trucks.
Smal er dozers and excavators assist
in land and stream restoration, and
Motorgraders maintain haul roads.
There are Five (5) basic steps to surface mining in which
federal and state reclamation and safety regulations
are enforced throughout the mining process.
Upper seams of coal are
Layers of rock & dirt
removed and “overburden”
Coal seams are
1 above the coal seam
2 is placed in fil areas near
3 removed and hauled
the head of hollows or
to cleaning plant
back-stacked on top of
Final restoration takes place
Regrading, stream and
and the area is revegetated
land restoration begins
with bushes, grasses and/or
the mining process.
Mountaintop mining is the most efficient
and environmental y responsible type of
surface mining over the long term.
“Contour mining,” more prominent in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, takes place around
a ridgetop in which a two or three hundred foot strip of earth and rock are
removed to expose the outer reaches of a coal seam. Contour mining leaves
large blocks of coal in the ground under the ridgetops. This is inefficient and
wasteful of coal resources. As equipment became larger and more powerful in
the 1990’s, mountaintop mining enabled the industry to become more productive
and efficient by removing all the coal available. The inefficiency of “contour
mining” kept open the possibility of re-entering the environment later, perhaps
Contour Mining shown in bright green band near top.
a second or third time, damaging any restoration that had been completed.
“Mountaintop mining” would have precluded further environmental damage;
thus allowing restoration to be greatly more sustainable and producing more
energy that our country desperately needs.
“Area Mining” occurs in more rolling topography such as northern West Virginia,
southern Ohio or midwest and western states to reach coal seams closer to
the surface. This topography al ows for easier restoration than difficult steep
slope areas but the mining process requires the same equipment and methods
as steep slope mountaintop mining. Post mining land use in these areas often
include agricultural, recreational, and commercial site developments. The Mylan
baseball and soccer parks, the FBI center, Pete Dye Golf Club, and Bridgeport
shopping malls are examples in the Morgantown/Clarksburg corridors. These are
beautifully restored areas that offer high economic and quality of life values.
Although the mining and environmental issues are the same in area mining,
this mining is not demonized in the same manner as in southern West Virginia/
Reclaimed Area Mining near Morgantown, WV.
Mountaintop mining does not destroy or
remove mountains. By law, mountains must be
restored to “approximate original contour.”
“ Blowing off the tops” of mountains and filling streams with waste are simply
provocative distortions of a highly regulated and engineered process.
“Flattening mountains” is merely a provocative term. It’s against the law and
Coal was discovered in Boone county in 1742. It is amazing that it is today
has no proof in fact. Leveling land for public or commercial use is merely
the highest coal producing county…producing over 33 million tons annually,
accepted practice and common sense. Is mountaintop mining destroying all
21 million tons by surface mining. Boone County is 503 square miles of a state
of our mountains? Absolutely not! The footprint is very small. That impression
that has 24,181 square miles. The 5.5 percentage of permitted acreage has
appears to be confirmed by information provided by the West Virginia Coal
relatively little mining in progress compared to acres and acres of restored
Association that says in 22 of the state’s 55 counties the acreage permitted for
land. It is today one of our most beautiful and rugged areas. In no way has
such mining is less that 1 percent; in four other counties, it is in the 1 to 3 percent
mountaintop mining destroyed this land. It is useful, dynamic, and resourceful
range and there are three over that with Boone the largest at 5.5 percent. The
and will be for years to come. Economically it has 102 mines, underground and
22 remaining counties have no permits for mountaintop mining. Furthermore,
surface. It has a population of 25,535, estimated direct wages of $258,449,000,
where restoration is 20 years or older, evidence of mining is virtually gone
and severance tax receipts of $4,559,930. Take away mountaintop mining and
except to the trained expert eye.
it will simply revert to another Appalachian tragedy as would all of southern
West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
Mine Site, southern WV.
Mountaintop mining is a
highly regulated project
technically defined by
regulators as anywhere
water might flow,
allows for deception
and half-truths by
Stream from Mine Site, southern WV.
Mountaintop mining does not cover up miles and miles of
their attacks on the coal industry. In fact, unless a permit variance is granted by
streams. Tragically, the mountaintop mining process has been deceptively
regulators for higher and better post mining land use, the mined area must, by
oversimplified and wrongful y characterized as blowing off the tops of
law, be restored to “approximate original contour” and revegetated. Recent
mountains and covering up streams. It has been repeated over and over and
law changes and new technology allow the planting of millions of hardwood
over by reporters and coal opponents. This repetition will never replace the
seedlings on restored lands. Also, new permits allow mountaintop mines to
true facts. Its use is designed to instil fear and create negativity to a critical
correct old damage and mistakes of the past on mine lands. Mining coal
mining process, an industry and citizenry. But yet it goes on and on. Anyone not
utilizing surface methods is designed to maximize the economic extraction
spending considerable time around the mining areas would think the “greedy
while minimizing the environmental effects to water resources, wildlife, insects
coal operators” are loping off all mountains and covering all fishing and
and aquatic life, and overall scenic environment. The restoration develops
navigable streams in the state. This is not reality. It is simply an inflammatory
beautifully over time. Unfortunately, most never get to view these areas as
and distorted attack against the coal industry. Mountaintop mining is primarily
mining areas stil under bond are off limits for public safety reasons. Only mining
a central Appalachian technique in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky,
in progress is available to the public through pictures and other visual media
and western Virginia. Mountaintop mining is legally characterized as surface
by coal’s opponents. Additionally, many counties are petitioning for mined
mining that flows continuously from one side of a mountain ridge to the other. It
land to be left in level conditions more readily available for commercial post
does not “remove” the mountain! It does not “flatten” the mountains! These are
mine use. Large, prime building sites are very scarce in central Appalachian
simply outrageous characterizations by anti-mining groups for sensationalizing
regions which make economic diversity all the more difficult.