The Mountains and Mines Monitoring Project
Photo by Junior Walk
Project Location: West Virginia
The Project Issue: Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
For well over a century the coal industry has exploited the people and natural resources of West Virginia. The technology they have developed over the past four decades specifically has allowed them to destroy and poison the environment to an almost unbelievable extent, all in the name of maximizing profit. Large scale surface mining, also known as mountaintop removal not only deforests thousands of acres per mine site, but completely destroys the landscape leaving behind only bare rock and rubble. The biologically diverse forests that used to set where these mines now exist can never be replaced, the topsoil that allowed them to exist is now buried under valley fills. The bedrock that once formed some of the oldest mountains on the planet is blasted apart and turned into toxic dust clouds that settle on the communities below.
The state regulatory agency, the West Virginia Department of Environmental protection has been in the pocket of the coal industry since its conception. This makes it difficult to hold the industry accountable to the relatively lax environmental laws, but not impossible. Over the years, Coal River Mountain Watch has discovered a handful of methods in the pursuit of chipping away at the profit margins of coal companies. One of the most successful tactics has been in observing, documenting, and monitoring mining activity and reporting on them to the DEP. The intent behind this fellowship team is to support our continued work against the coal industry using drones and other forms of observation to document violations of environmental law, and pressure the DEP to take appropriate action. The fines incurred by the coal company are a pittance and are factored into the cost of doing business.
The main goal of this work is to make the companies pull workers and equipment away from actively mining coal in order to fix the problems they created.
In this project, we aim to:
- Monitor active mine sites from the ground and via drone.
- Research environmental regulations and identify tactics that concerned citizens in communities around surface mines can use to document illegal actions and permit violations by the mining companies.
- Communicate our findings to the Department of Environmental Protection and follow up with them to raise the pressure on the agency to take action.
- Create a videos examining the state of abandoned and active mines in the area on and around Coal River Mountain, and describe the tactics that can be used to hold the industry accountable.
Fellows working on this project:
- Junior Walk: Community Fellow and Project Advisor
- Elena Peterman: Environmental Policy Fellow
- Jordan Freeman: Documentation Fellow
- Rotating Field Technicians in West Virginia
Partners and Collaborators: - Coal River Mountain Watch
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Activities we’ve done in our project
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