On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of West Virginians and their allies rallied on Kayford Mountain to protest the way that mountain top removal mining locations are abandoned by coal companies.
During the rally, individuals walked onto a neighboring mountain top removal mine site to plant native trees on a “reclaimed” area in an act of non-violent civil disobedience.
This action represented a call for the abolition of mountaintop removal and thorough reclamation of the over 1 million acres flattened by surface mining in Appalachia.
Standard reclamation involves regrading high walls into steep slopes and seeding the rocky soil with grass. The biodiverse mixed mesophytic forests of central Appalachia cannot regrow on reclaimed surface mines, and opponents to mountain top removal mining accuse the industry of shirking its responsibility to restore areas that they have pillaged in search of coal.
“The coal industry does not attempt to return the landscape to its previous biodiversity – leaving it up to the citizens to reclaim it themselves. Fixing the ruined landscape will provide long term jobs for those put out of work by the abolition of mountaintop removal,” said forester and environmentalist john johnson [sic].
A report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office earlier this year found that proper post-mining reclamation and restoration is not happening in Appalachia. Part of the reason for this failure is that coalfield states all have different requirements and often do not adequately enforce their own standards (NRDC).
johnson was one of dozens that helped to plant 30 trees, including hemlocks, a tulip poplar, pin oak, walnuts, chestnuts, and acorns on the “reclamation” site.
Seven people also deployed a banner that stated “Over 55 Mountains Destroyed – Reclamation Jobs Now!”
The rally and action comes on the heels of the EPA’s recommendation to veto the Spruce No. 1 mine’s permit and Appalachia Rising, the largest national gathering of people in opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining to date.
Image Credit: Climate GroundZero