Mountaintop Removal, When Mountains Move, National Geographic: Surface Mine Pit

Bulldozer in pit mine with truck in background and small workers on the ground.

Bulldozers fill trucks with excess rock at a small mountaintop removal site in Man, West Virginia, where a small crew is mining coal in a site in Logan County that was left by a large coal company as rubble.

Large mining operations are only visible from the air, although coal and debris are removed using enormous earth-moving machines known as draglines that stand 22 stories tall and can hold 24 compact cars in its bucket. The machines can cost up to $100 million, but are favored by coal companies because they can do the work of hundreds of employees. A small operation like this one can keep 17 employees working for five years and making good wages.