MAC: Mines and Communities

Authors: Ban Mountaintop Removal Mining

Published by MAC on 2005-04-21

Authors: Ban mountaintop removal mining

By Art Jester, Herald-Leader Staff Writer

April 21, 2005

A group of Kentucky authors wants the state to outlaw a widely used but controversial coal-mining method because it causes "appalling destruction to the land" and "economic and cultural violence" to the entire state.

The statement by 16 of Kentucky's best-known authors came today, after their two-day tour of mountaintop removal strip mining sites in Leslie and Perry counties.

It was presented in a news conference at Eastern Kentucky University, in conjunction with a social action group, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, which organized the tour.

Probably the toughest words in the authors' 1 1/2-page, double-spaced document came in the concluding paragraph:

"We are horrified that this practice is legal. We are angry that representatives in our own government are allowing this to happen. Mountaintop removal is not right; it is not acceptable, and it is an act we will fight.

"We call for the abolition of mountaintop removal and urge our fellow citizens to pressure elected officials in every way to stop this criminal desecration of our commonwealth."

This afternoon, Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, responded to the authors' declaration with a brief statement.

"Mountaintop removal mining affects a very small percentage of the mountains," he said. "It maximizes coal recovery. It pays the landowner handsomely. It leaves valuable flat land for future generations."

Caylor said the authors' statement "was an emotional tirade playing fast and loose with statements of facts. These are the same people who would be outraged if they knew where their ground beef came from."

Mountaintop removal mining uses explosives first to blast away dirt and rock above a coal seam. Excavators then remove alternate lawyers of dirt and coal. After the coal is removed, the remaining dirt is bulldozed relatively flat, or at least into a plateau. Excess dirt and rock are dumped into adjacent hollows, which become what are called valley fills.

The de facto chairman of the authors' group who drafted the first version of the statement was Silas House, a novelist who teaches English and writing at EKU.

House said the statement was adopted unanimously after the authors met this morning at the Hindman Settlement School to craft a final version.

"Everybody was absolutely 100 percent behind the statement and they burst into applause after we voted on it," House said.

House, a former mail carrier in his native Laurel County who has become one of Kentucky's most respected writers, said the "problem is the people are not aware" of the extent of environmental destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining.

"This state is filled with good people who would care about this if they knew about it," House said.

In addition to House, some of the other participating authors were: Gwyn Hyman Rubio, Ed McClanahan, Erik Reece, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, Charles Bracelen Flood, Kristin Johannsen, Anne Shelby, Artie Ann Bates, Loyal Jones and Bob Sloan.

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