Project Description

Issue: Mountain Top Removal Mining

Mountaintop removal coal mining, often described as “strip mining on steroids,” is an extremely destructive form of mining that is devastating Appalachia. In the past few decades, over 2,000 miles of streams and headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans have been permanently buried and destroyed. Local communities routinely face devastating floods and adverse health effects. Natural habitats in some our country’s oldest forests are laid to waste.

How It’s Done

Coal companies first raze an entire mountainside, ripping trees from the ground and clearing brush with huge tractors. This debris is then set ablaze as deep holes are dug for explosives. An explosive is poured into these holes and mountaintops are literally blown apart. Huge machines called draglines—some the size of an entire city block, scoop up to 100 tons in a single load—push rock and dirt into nearby streams and valleys, forever burying waterways. Coal companies use explosives to blast as much as 800 to 1,000 feet off the tops of mountains in order to reach thin coal seams buried deep below.

The Impact:

While mountaintop removal mining decimates mountains and buries streams with mining waste at unprecedented rates in Appalachia, numerous scientific studies are linking mountaintop removal mining to grave health threats for families and communities across the region. Several scientific studies point to unacceptable impacts on the health of people who live near mountaintop removal mining sites and other forms of coal mining, such as high mortality rates, early deaths, and significantly elevated cancer and disease rates.

A major new scientific study also shows significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of heavy mountaintop removal mining, even after controlling for a range of other contributing factors. The study found that living near a mountaintop removal site poses a much greater risk to unborn babies than smoking during pregnancy.

What You Can Do:

In President Trump’s first year in office, he instructed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to roll back the Clean Water Rule and other related regulations designed to protect communities and our environment from mountain top removal. You can learn more about pressing issues related to mountaintop removal and water safety here: