Metropulse Covers “Mountain Range” Removal

August 3, 2006 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

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Knoxville’s local alternative weekly covers mountaintop removal coal mining in this week’s Gamut section. My partner, Kim, is one of the photographers who accompanied Metropulse editor Lesley Wylie, other members of United Mountain Defense, and a Volunteer pilot from SouthWings on a flyover of mining sites in Tennessee and Kentucky.

“It’s critical to see the area from above to keep track of cumulative impacts,” explains Poloma Galindo, a UMD activist who’s in the backseat during today’s flight. Below us is the city of Lafollette, recognizable as a tidy network of miniature homes with square lawns and turquoise swimming pools. As the airport fades into the distance, the homes get farther apart, separated now by patchwork fields in hues of green, some dotted with livestock. I-75 is a thin ribbon of gray, snaking through the mountains of Campbell and Claiborne County.

The coalmines, once they appear, aren’t hard to pick out, despite the thick summer haze. They look like interconnected craters, massive bald spots zigzagging along the mountain ridges, laced together by pale dirt roads. Some of the older ones take the shape of wedding cakes, with cliff-edged tiers and layers iced with scrubby vegetation; others look like misshapen blobs, unnatural and asymmetrical, as though someone took them apart and carelessly shoveled them back together—which is the approximate gist of contour mining and cross-ridge mining respectively, explains Galindo. Their expanses are fringed by clear-cut areas, which indicate that they’ll be mined soon.

But it’s the sheer scope of it, the way the mines keep extending on and on for miles, that’s most striking. That’s what doesn’t come across in pictures or words alone.

Galindo grabs my hand. “See all that?” she asks in a startled tone that suggests that, even after all these flyovers, the mines’ shock factor has yet to fade. “They just keep expanding and expanding. They’re taking out whole mountain ranges. It should be called mountain-range mining.”

You can find the video footage mentioned in the article here.

Some more photos: (email us if you would like high resolution photos for printing)
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“Wedding cake” effect with cliff-edged tiers

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Carol Judy, coalfield resident

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Local swimming hole

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Unstable new mining site

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Nope, not mountain lakes, but sludge ponds containing a slurry of toxins

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Entry filed under: News stories.

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