The following sequence of satellite photos was taken by NASA between 1984 and 2010. The photos show an area in the Appalachian Mountains in southern West Virgina that has been subjected to controversial mountaintop removal coal mining.
Looking at the devastating impact of the mountaintop removal mining operation, it’s easy to see why this method of mining remains controversial. In fact, for the first time, the Obama Administration recently revoked the permit for one of the largest mountaintop removal mining projects in the United States, in West Virginia.
These images document the expansion of the Hobet mine from mountain ridge to mountain ridge over the past 26 years. As you can see, the mountainous area used to be heavily forested. The town of Madison can be seen at the lower right of the images.
The law requires mines to reestablish the mined land back to its original shape, but it’s very difficult to get natural mountaintops back to their original shapes. No doubt it eats into profits too. In addition, there is always extra rock left over which is controversially used to build valley fills in hollows, and gullies, and streams.
From the later photos, it looks like an effort was made to restore some of the earlier mined area back to green area, as the mine expanded into new areas. Over 10,000 acres or 15.6 square miles of land was impacted over the 26 years.
What a mess. Surely there’s a better way to generate the power the world needs into the future. Is it time to start phasing out coal mining over the coming couple of decades, and innovate into cleaner energy generation? In any case, surely we don’t need to blow the tops off mountains to get our energy.