In the wake of the recent coal bankruptcies, it is necessary for citizens and communities to reclaim the degraded land and polluted water left behind from destructive mining practices. Though the legacy of mountaintop removal mining will be with us for many decades, the mining industry, which is legally responsible for cleaning up its pollution and restoring mountaintop removal sites to productive uses, no longer has the money to meet its obligations. So self-help is our only option left.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates has recently negotiated a groundbreaking settlement with coal mine operator Alpha Natural Resources that directs money and in-kind resources to innovative stream restoration and reforestation projects in West Virginia. The projects will be implemented by Appalachian Headwaters, a new West Virginia organization created to improve the environment and help spur economic development in the region.
Appalachian Headwaters will work with leading academic experts, engineers, coal mining companies, community groups and landowners to establish productive native hardwood forests and restore water quality on mountaintop removal and other large scale surface mining sites in the region.
These projects will achieve far higher levels of reclamation than typically found on mountaintop removal and other large scale surface mines. Instead of merely establishing grasslands and planting invasive species on mined sites to reduce sedimentation, Appalachian Headwaters will work to establish commercially viable native hardwood forests and significantly improve water quality in Appalachian streams. Appalachian Headwaters’ reclamation work has the potential to develop agroforestry and other sustainable economic activities in the economically depressed region. Additional information on Appalachian Headwaters can be found here.