Award of Excellence
"THE HUMAN TOLL: MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MINING"
Over the last forty years, mountaintop removal coal mining has buried nearly 2,000 miles of mountain streams, and destroyed more than a million acres of forest while blowing up mountains to extract coal. Each week, 4-million pounds of explosives are used across Appalachia in this form of coal mining, the equivalent to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Besides an environmental issue, this form of mining has been called a human rights issue for those living in the coalfields. In some towns, drinking water has been contaminated from mountaintop removal practices, seriously impacting the health of their residents. In an area rich with mountain culture, some say their heritage and way of life is being destroyed as mountains are blasted and demolished around their homes, sometimes forcing them to leave hometowns where generations before have lived.
Coal companies and proponents of mountaintop mining say that America needs this form of coal mining to supply electricity and energy across the country, as well as for job security for those living in Appalachia. The Obama administration has promised to take a closer look at the effects of mountaintop removal mining, creating even higher tensions between the opponents and proponents of this mining practice.
In eastern Kentucky, an area rich with mountain culture, a man is baptized in a lake surrounded by mountains -- some of which are beginning to be mountaintop mined for coal. Many opponents of mountaintop mining say that this form of mining is destroying Appalachian heritage. Many churches still perform river baptisms, yet the practice of mountaintop removal has contaminated or buried nearly 2,000 miles of mountain streams across Appalachia.