Mountaintop Removal, When Mountains Move, National Geographic: Life In A Hollow

Man holds hand with child while walking on a road with other chidren playing in a rural neighborhood.

Lucious Thompson walks down the road in Tom Biggs Hollow in Letcher County, Kentucky, while his children play nearby.

Lucious Thompson, who lives in nearby Tom Biggs Hollow, joined Kentuckians for the Commonwealth when he found his land disrupted from above. “There’s good mining and there’s bad mining,” Mr. Thompson said. “Mountaintop removal takes the coal quick, 24 hours every day, making my streams disappear, with the blasting knocking a person out of bed and the giant ‘dozers beep-beeping all night so you cannot sleep.”

Mr. Thompson spoke with the authority of a retired underground miner. Underground miners led quieter, more pastoral lives above harsh, deep workplaces that were far out of sight. Now, the hollow dwellers have become witnesses more than miners as a fast-moving, high-volume process uses mammoth machinery to decapitate the coal-rich hills.

“They make monster funnels of our villages,” said Carroll Smith, judge-executive, the top elected official, here in Letcher County, the location of some of the worst flooded hollows adjoining mountaintop removal sites. “They haven’t been a real good neighbor at all.”

With underground mining, coal miners led quieter, more pastoral lives above harsh workplaces deep in the ground and far out of sight. With mountaintop removal, a fast, high-volume process that uses mammoth machinery to decapitate the coal-rich hills that help define the hollows, the residents have become witnesses more than miners.

New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/11/national/11MINE.html