Apart from cutting down the forests, and blowing up and knocking down the mountains, mountaintop removal generates huge amounts of waste. While the solid waste becomes valley fills, liquid waste is stored in massive, dangerous coal slurry impoundments, often built in the headwaters of a watershed, according to Earth Justice. The slurry is a witch’s brew of water used to wash the coal for market, carcinogenic chemicals used in the washing process and coal fines (small particles) laden with all the compounds found in coal, including toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. Frequent blackwater spills from these impoundments choke the life out of streams. One “spill” of 306 million gallons that sent sludge up to fifteen feet thick into resident’s yards and fouled 75 miles of waterways, has been called the southeast’s worst environmental disaster.
Mountaintop removal and strip mining has caused serious tensions in mountain communities in the United States. People who work for the mining companies do not want to lose their jobs and have clashed with local community members and environmentalists who have tried to stop it.
Report on mountaintop removal and interview with the late Larry Gibson