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Mountaintop Coal Mining: Proven Destructive to People and the Environment

January 25, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee environmentalists have new ammunition in their fight against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (MRCM) after an article published in "Science" magazine confirming that the practice has cataclysmic effects on plants, animals and people.

The article says the effects of MRCM on people include causing lung cancer, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease, and higher mortality rates. Axel Ringe, vice-chair of conservation for the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, says decapitating mountains to get to seams of coal may be economically expedient, but it's environmentally foolish.

"They drill into the rock and put explosives in and turn the mountaintop into rubble. They continue this process on down until they get to the coal seam that they're interested in and then they scoop up the coal and they truck it off."

Severe environmental degradation occurs, including the destruction of vast tracts of ancient forest, and hundreds of miles of small streams are affected. Ringe says that, while required reclamation does take place after the coal is mined, the natural habitat of the area never fully recovers from the effects of minerals exposed by the process.

"You have things like barium, you have aluminum, you have manganese, you have iron, you have selenium; a number of these are toxic in sufficient quantities."

The "Science" article concluded that mountaintop removal permits should no longer be granted.

Even as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing its policy on mountaintop removal, it recently approved an expansion of the largest mountaintop-removal coal mine in West Virginia.

The "Science" article is at: www.sciencemag.org

Randy O'Brien, Public News Service - TN