This is a companion piece to the review that I wrote on my book blog, Dewette Decimal Reads, reviewing Gray Mountain by John Grisham. I highly recommend reading this book, not only for the story, but also for the way in which Grisham presented the facts surrounding strip mining and the impact of it. Energy is an important topic, and one that we all need to think about. As our electricity use increases, we as a nation we need to really have an intelligent discussion about how we’re going to continue our life as we know it.
After reading this book, which of course brought up many questions and concerns, I decided to do a little research into the matter of strip mining. There are a lot of issues with our energy, but today I really want to focus on strip mining in particular, since I thought that this would be a good place to start. I intend to continue this as a series on this blog in the future since there are various issues that affect all of us, and we really do need to open a dialog regarding various problems in our society. I believe that the more information we can get, the better to deal with problems. According to http://www.plunderingappalachia.org more than 450 mountains in Appalachia have had their tops removed and the coal within these mountains has been mined. This has lead to environmental damage including: 2,000 streams and rivers have been polluted; wildlife habitat has been destroyed; the “waste” has been pushed into valleys adjacent to the mountains, interfering with water, rain and the use of these valleys to be lived in or used for other purposes. The left-over “slag” is a toxic mix that is allowed to be dumped into rivers and streams in the region resulting in the inability of these communities to drink or even use the water that previously had been clean. This in turn leads to the well-documented diseases of: various cancers, liver and kidney diseases, along with skin rashes. http://www.academia.edu/285527/The_Polluting_of_a_Nation_Surface_Coal_Mining_In_America
Along with the problems of “slag”, there are also the “slurry impoundments” that are made to hold the left-over toxic waste in large pools. These have been documented to have leaked into the ground-water, making this water unusable for, well, basically forever. There have been several incidents of these slurry ponds breaking through their barriers and flooding miles of land with the toxins. http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/community/ There are other problems involved with strip mining. When the mountain top is blown off, boulders have flown into the air and down the mountain crushing homes and killing people. The trucks that carry the coal down the mountain have been involved in numerous crashes where they have killed people. http://www.wvminesafety.org/fatal97.htm http://www.mine.statler.wvu.edu/cerb/GOLD_STANDARD_CERB%20FinalReport2013-003.pdf
The health of the miners who work in strip mining has to be taken into consideration also. The risks for cancers, lung disease and other diseases have gone up, with black lung the main risk. http://www.npr.org/2012/07/09/156377872/surface-coal-miners-at-risk-for-black-lung The website http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2010/01/blac-j11.html has really good information on the health problems involved with coal and strip mining. I’ve given varied and numerous sites showing that these issues are a real concern. As we all know, poverty is a problem in Appalachia. That is also something to think about, is the poverty that this region has been suffering from for many decades one reason for these environmental and health issues?
This is a huge problem, affecting all of Appalachia. We really must have an intelligent conversation regarding our use of energy and how we can find other ways to manage that use. The government site http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3 states that we get 39% of our energy from coal, and a total of 67% from fossil fuels including: coal, natural gas and petroleum. Obviously these materials that we’re using to generate energy are not self-sustaining and are finite. I’m interested in your comments on how we can utilize sustainable energy. What do you think?