In the mountains of southwest Virginia, coal seams are increasingly mined out, leaving thin deposits which are difficult to excavate through traditional mining. The coal industry has turned to mountaintop removal coal mining, an extreme type of mining that entails clear-cutting rich forest habitat, blasting apart ridges with powerful explosives, and dumping the waste in adjacent valleys.
More than 156,000 acres of Virginia Appalachian forest have been destroyed by mountaintop removal, and more than 150 miles of stream have been destroyed or severely polluted. Cancer rates and birth defects are drastically higher for communities located near mining sites, and miners continue to face an uncertain future, as fewer workers are needed to operate the giant machinery.
With the continuing decline in coal jobs in Virginia, the transition to a clean energy economy could not only save our mountains, but also diversify the economic base of the coalfields region.