What is mountain top removal?


Mountaintop removal, which is sometimes called mountaintop mining, strip mining, and MTR,  is a method of mining coal. It involves more than removing mountaintops. There are six steps in the process, which you can read about below. 


1. Clearing

2. Blasting
3. Digging
4. Dumping
5. Processing
6. Reclamation


1. In the Clearing step, the trees, topsoil, and vegetation are clearcut.

2. The Blasting step uses powerful explosives to remove the earth and rock on top of the mountain.

3. The Digging step uses gigantic dragline excavators (see the fifth photo) and trucks to remove the rubble and coal.

4. In the Dumping step, the excess rubble and earth is pushed over the side of the mountain into the valley. This fills up the valley.

5. In the Processing step, the coal is washed with water and chemicals. The excess liquid, called slurry, is either poured into the ground in former underground mines or is left in huge ponds behind earth dams. You can see this clearly in photos 2 and 4.

6. Reclamation is a required step where sites must be stabalized and replanted with vegetation. In most cases, though, foreign and invasive species are planted and the native ecosystem cannot return for a very long time.

bottom

Kayford Mountain Aerial Shot by Vivian Stockman. Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Mountain near Wharton, WV / Big Branch Creek. Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Brushy Fork Coal Sludge Impoundment. Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org


You can learn more about the mountaintop mining process at these websites:


OVEC

Coal River Mountain Watch

Keeper of the Mountains
I Love Mountains

Aurora Lights

Sludge Safety

EPA


The nonprofit group SkyTruth has found that over 272,000 acres of Appalachia and more than 2,700 ridge tops have been impacted by MTR.