Mountain Top Removal mining is a form of surface mining that basically cuts off the top of a mountain, hill, or ridge to obtain coal. The miners typically blast down about 400 feet, and this is NOTHING compared to the size of the mountain. Many people are against this procedure, but I do not oppose. It is safer and more economical. A lot of people complain because it ruins the way the mountain looks, but I live in the heart of West Virginia (the widest-known state for using mountaintop removal), and I personally can tell you that you do not notice the area that they have blasted. As with anything, there are going to be pro’s and con’s
To begin the process, the land is deforested…this contributes to the production of lumber so really, they are killing two birds in one stone. Once the area is cleared, miners use explosives and other devices to blast away the left debris such as rock and subsoil to expose the coal seams that are beneath. The overburden is moved mostly by vehicles to areas of the ridge that have already been mined. These areas are the best place for storage as they are located close to the active pit. When all the clearing is done, an excavator removes the coal and it is transferred to a processing plant. Once coal is removed, the miners put the overburden back. After this, they then put down topsoil, grass seed, fertilizer, and mulch…all the pretty things. The trees and plants are put back into place based on the land owner, if the trees are not replaced, the land can be used as pasture land, economic development, etc. The process sounds brutal, but it’s really not that bad.
The issue with MTR is the environmental damage it does. It’s not the worst the environment has seen, but it’s not the best. Some of the problems that are argued about would be the debris and dust from blasting that circulates into the air and lands on private property around the area. Depending on the circumstances, it may a high amount of sulphur which can corrode structures and is a health hazard, but studies show that this isn’t always the case. Also, there is a particular problem with the burial of headwater streams from the valley fills.
MTR is not the most environmentally safe way of mining, but it is the safest for the miners themselves. I would take this over underground mining any day. The underground mine explosions not only devastate the families and friends of the miners involved, it devastates the whole state. Our blood runs thick…and to know that there is a safer way of getting our energy, and a safer way for our boys to do their jobs makes you wonder why they aren’t using it everywhere.