In the neverending quest by the invisible guiding hand of Kapitalism to totally destroy one of the most beautiful places on Earth, West Virginia,the fine foax of the coal mining industry have created their greatest monstrosity to date, the hilltopping strip mine.
The quaint image of men in hardhats riding an elevator into the coal mine is just that, quaint (but for a couple of great films that capture the feeling of that time and place, see Matewan and October Sky). All the best seams in WV have been mined out. A very large amount of this country's electrical power is supplied by coal buring powerplants, and West Virginia must now compete with cheap strip mined coal from the American West (torn out of the ground in other places like Montana and Wyoming.)The way they are cost-effectively (from a dollar perspective) getting at the last remaining coal is by the hill topping process
In the folded sedimentary mountains of the Appalachia, you can get to a seam of coal by blasting the top of the hill off with high-explosives and the carting away the rubble. You scoop out the coal with highly automated excavators and dump it into nearby trains via a coal tipple
Perhaps you're wondering right now, "Gosh, the whole top of a hill, that sounds like a lot of rubble. Where does it all go?" This is an excellent question. In the case of the lax ecological enforcement of the State of West Virginia, you can just dump it in the bottom of a nearby draw or hollow.
The Appalachians are wet. If you poke a hole in the ground with a stick, water will basically run out of it. Roads are always getting potholed as the result of springs trapped beneath the road surface eroding away the roadbed. At the bottom of every draw or hollow is a creek. They are the bedrock of the entire Appalachian ecosystem. If you drop several million metric tons of mine waste into the bottom a hollow, you're going to dam the creek. You alter watersheds, change the pH of the water, you name it. You shoot the works straight to hell.
And there's the obvious - THE MOUNTAIN HAS HAD ITS TOP BLOWN OFF! What was once a verdant, treetopped peak, a place where cool winds crested the ridgeline is now a smoking hole in the ground. A gaping wound in the face of Earth, waiting for erosion to make the damage all the worse.
And the Union, the one power in the state that could stand up to the coal lobby, has gone to dark side - operating in open collusion with the mine interests to keep a few (very few) mine jobs. In the meantime, the one truly irreplaceable resource of the state, its awesome physical beauty and quiet verdantcy is slowly being destroyed forever.It's like burning a Rembrandt or Picasso in the fireplace because it gets cold one night and you don't have any firewood.
It is as if They sat down and said, "Guys, we're running out of ways to screw the decent working people of West Virginia. We really need to come up with a showstopper before we pull out and move on."
If I think about it too long, I get so angry I could kill somebody.