Mountaintop removal is any method of surface coal mining that destroys a mountaintop or ridgeline, whether or not the mined area will be returned to what is legally described as the “approximate original contour.” Methods of mountaintop removal coal mining include, but are not limited to: cross-ridge mining, box-cut method mining, steep slope mining, area mining or mountaintop mining.
What is the process of mountaintop removal coal mining?
Before mining can begin, all topsoil and vegetation must be removed. Because coal companies frequently are responding to short-term fluctuations in the price of coal, the trees are often not used commercially, but instead are burned or sometimes illegally dumped into valleys.
Many Appalachian coal seams lie deep beneath the surface of the mountains. Accessing these seams can require the removal of 600 feet or more of elevation. Blowing up this much mountain is accomplished by using millions of pounds of explosives.
Coal and debris are removed using enormous earth-moving machines known as draglines, which stand 22 stories high and can hold 24 compact cars their buckets. These machines can cost up to $100 million, but are favored by coal companies because they displace the need for hundreds of miners.
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