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The Appalachia Issue

Stripped Mountain

Before: The little building front and center is one of the few remaining homeplaces in the mountains outside of Mud, West Virginia.
November 1, 2006, 12:00am

Photo by Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Before: The little building front and center is one of the few remaining homeplaces in the mountains outside of Mud, West Virginia. The majority of the town has been uprooted by the expansion of Arch Coal’s Hobet-21 surface mine, which covers over 12,000 acres of former hills and hollers. This picture was taken in June 2005.

Photo by Vivian Stockman, flyover courtesy of SouthWings.

After:

And here’s the same spot this past October. The section to the lower right that looks like green-painted concrete is actually the “reclaimed” land from an earlier removal. Mining companies are supposed to recreate the “approximate original contour” of the mountaintops they remove and restore as much vegetation “as possible.” Ha ha ha. How about words?

Photo by John Cox

Before:

A handful of Appalachian mountaintops peeking out of the mist in Perry County, Kentucky. The Cumberland Plateau, on which most of Eastern Kentucky is situated, is one of the only regions in North America that escaped the last ice age without ending up underwater. As a result, its mountains house some of the oldest forests in the world, containing thousands of often rare plant-and-animal species.

Photo by John Cox

After:

Of course things like “biodiversity” and “precariously balanced ecosystems” don’t mean shit to companies intent on getting at coal seams the quickest and cheapest way possible. That’s why they use equipment like the dragline seen above, 20-story behemoths that can haul over 1 million pounds of earth at a time (if you’re unclear just how fucking huge this thing is, use the full-size semi truck on the road to the left of it as a reference). Another fun effect of this steroidial mechanization is that it’s reduced the workforce to a third of its 70s size. Good work, guys.

Photo by Roe Ethridge

Even years after the work is done, you can still spot a strip-mined mountain a mile away.