Mountaintop removal strip mining process: before, during and after (before)
Mountaintop removal strip mining process: before, during and after (during)
Mountaintop removal strip mining process: before, during and after (after)

Mountaintop Removal Mining: The Facts

Mountaintop removal mining is the practice of blasting off the tops of mountains so machines called draglines can mine coal deposits. Coal mining companies dump the mountaintops into nearby valleys and streams to create "valley fills," converting mountain landscapes covered in hardwood forests into fields of sparse grass. Coal companies are stripping off the tops of mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. Tennessee has three inactive mines.

  • More than half of the electricity in the U.S. today is generated by coal-fired power plants.

  • Demand for electricity in the U.S. has increased by 136 percent since 1970.

  • In the 1999-2000 election cycle, the coal mining industry contributed more than $3.6 million to federal parties and candidates.

  • West Virginia has 4 percent of the coal in the world. The U.S. has 21.1 percent of the world total.

  • The U.S. is responsible for 22.3 percent of the world's coal-related carbon emissions.

  • 52 percent of U.S. energy is powered by coal.

  • Over 1000 miles of streams have been buried by strip mine waste in Appalachia.

  • In 2000, almost 170 million tons of coal were mined in West Virginia, with 60 million tons coming from strip mines.

  • In 1950, West Virginia employed 143,000 miners. By 1997, that number was down to 22,000.

  • 75 percent of West Virginia's streams and rivers are polluted by mining and other industries.

  • 300,000 acres of hardwood forest in West Virginia have been destroyed by mountaintop removal mining.

  • St. Louis-based Arch Coal is the nation's second-largest coal producer and accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. energy.

  • In 2001, Arch Coal reported revenues of nearly $1.5 billion.

  • Sources:
    Arch Coal, Inc.
    National Mining Association
    West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
    West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training


    The Film | Filmmaker Q&A | Filmmaker Bio | Mountaintop Removal Mining | Learn More | Talkback

    Get The Video Talkback Learn More Filmmaker Bio Filmmaker Q&A The Film Razing Appalachia Indie Film Resources About Independent Lens Program Guide Independent Lens Home