February 15, 2008
The mountain that isn't there
Elk have been reintroduced in Kentucky into areas flattened by mountaintop removal mining. These photos show the terrain after 200 feet of mountain were removed as part of a mining operation. The area has been seeded, but because of the drought there hasn't been much growth. Later, pine trees will be planted.
Mining companies must post a bond for five years, during which they do required planting. They're also mandated during that time to fix gullies and other areas where water runoff is a problem.
The fuzzier ones of these photos were taken around six in the morning. You have to start early in the day if you want to catch up with elk. I've read a lot about mountain top removal mining and the environmental damage it causes. I've also read about the value of coal as fuel and the economic importance of coal mining in Kentucky. Seeing these places, though, what struck me is how much it reminded me of the desert area between Kingman, Arizona, and Las Vegas. It will take centuries to overcome the sterility created by such mining.