Mountaintop Mining Removal in West Virginia, USA


Across the Appalachian region of the United States companies are engaged in a mining practice known as mountain top removal that causes major irreversable damage to the ecosystem as well as the health and culture of the region's communities. Studies have found that those living near mountain top removal sights are 50% more likely to develop life threatening cancers and 42% more likely to develop birth defects.

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Basic Data
NameMountaintop Mining Removal in West Virginia, USA
CountryUnited States of America
ProvinceWest Virginia
SiteBoone County
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesCoal
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 2012 Boone county mines produced 15,751,702 tons of coal. Production through the 1990s up until 2008 averaged around 30,000,000 tons per year.
Project Area (in hectares)130276 (county area)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population123316 (population of Boone County)
Start Date1960
Company Names or State EnterprisesCoal River Mining LLC from United States of America - Coal River Mining LLC, Colony Bay Coal Co, Covington Coal Co, Eagle Mining LLC, Eastern Association Coal LLC, Elk Run Coal , Fasure Creek mining LLC, Hobet Mining LLC, Independence Coal Co Inc, Legacy Resources LLC, Long Flame Coal Company, Raven Crest Contracting LLC, Thuderhill Coal Inc (
Eastern Association Coal LLC from United States of America
Relevant government actorsEPA, West Virginia Office of Miners Health Safety and Training.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersOhio River Valley Environmental Coaltion, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, Earthjustice, Earth Justices Mountain Heroes Campaign, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, GreenPeace, West Virginia Environmental Council, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, West Virginia Council of Churches, West Virginia Highlands, The Alliance for Appalachia (and the associated I Love Mountains), Appalachian Voices, Ohio
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMoratoria
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
Project cancelled
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project temporarily suspended
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesBan on mountain-top mining, more strict regulation on permiting
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Major attention from the public to this issue. One of the most recognizable environmental justice issues in the U.S. On November 14, 2012 Patriot Coal aggreed to stop all mountaintop removal in Central Appalachia as part of an agreement with Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. Mining has decreased in the county since 2008 and increasingly national attention and international attention is focused on the damages caused by mountain top mining practices. Still, the ban has not been put on the activity yet.
Sources and Materials

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA)

Federal Mine Safety and Health Act

Clean Water Act (CWA)

Clean Air Act

Endangered Species Act (ESA)


[2] Palmer et al, "Mountaintop Mining Consequences", Science
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In West Virginia, a Battle Over Mountaintop Mining
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Coal Country
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Earth Observatory
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[1] Howard, Jason. 'Appalachia Turns on Itself.' New York Times 8 July 2013: n. pag. New York Times. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.
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[3] The Guardian, US scientists demand government ban on mountaintop mining
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[4] Ejolt blog, Victory: no more Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Laciana Valley (Spain)
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Source Watch
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Media Links

Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining
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Burning the Future
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Informational Video about Mountain Top Mining removal process
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:The Last Mountain" Documentary on Coal River Mountain
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Other Documents

View on the mined top of the mountain Source:
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Other CommentsCompanies holding surface mining permits at of 10/1/2013: Coal River Mining LLC, Colony Bay Coal Co, Covington Coal Co, Eagle Mining LLC, Eastern Association Coal LLC, Elk Run Coal , Fasure Creek mining LLC, Hobet Mining LLC, Independence Coal Co Inc, Legacy Resources LLC, Long Flame Coal Company, Raven Crest Contracting LLC, Thuderhill Coal Inc ('Mine Permits.' West Virginia Mine Permits Listings. West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training, n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2014. .)

This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta Information
ContributorKaty Hintzen, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update07/05/2015