Mountaintop Prison a Bust

NRDC recently released a report -- Reclamation FAIL -- that debunked the coal industry's propaganda that mountaintop removal mining is beneficial because (1) Appalachia needs more flat land and (2) flattened mine sites are routinely converted for economic development.  Such claims are nothing more than a big, flat lie.

Specifically, NRDC’s analysis used aerial imagery to show that nearly 90% of mountaintop removal sites have not been converted to economic uses.  Of the 500 mountaintop removal sites we examined, we excluded 90 from our survey due to active, ongoing mining activity.  That left 410 supposedly reclaimed mine sites, for which we found that:

  • Overall, economic activity occurs on just 6% to 11% of all reclaimed mountaintop removal sites on sites we surveyed
  • 366 (89.3%) had no form of verifiable post-mining economic reclamation excluding forestry and pasture
  • 26 (6.3% of total) yield some form of verifiable post-mining economic development

In terms of actual economic development on post-mined lands, one of those 26 "beneficial" projects is a federal prison on what used to be Belcher Mountain in McDowell County, West Virginia.  You can actually take a look at the site using GoogleEarth by clicking here

When it comes to economic development on former mountaintops, this is considered a big deal.  Although the coal industry paints a vision of gleaming shopping malls and subdivisions on every flattened peak, the sad reality is that a prison is about the best kind of building project a community can hope for after a mining operation shuts down.  Unfortunately, this particular jail is not exactly a jackpot for the local economy.

Despite the promise of 300 local jobs, local officials reportedly are "disappointed" that only 12 residents of McDowell County have been hired to work at the prison.

For this the mining company was allowed to raze a precious Appalachian peak?  Come to think of it, I suggest the jail would be a good place for those coal executives to spend the rest of their days.  If they're lucky, they might score a room with a beautiful view of the remaining mountains.