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Mountaintop Mining And Valley Fill

Better Essays
Mountaintop mining and valley fill (MTM/VF) coal extraction, which is heavily practiced in the Central Appalachian region of the eastern United States, represents a dramatic landscape-scale disturbance. The process includes removing as much as 300m of rock, soil, and vegetation from ridge tops to access deep coal seams; the overburden material is then placed in adjacent valleys, burying headwater streams. Post-mining topography, vegetation, soils, and runoff pathways can be severely altered during the mining and reclamation process, greatly altering the landscape’s hydrology and the biochemistry of the watershed. This paper will attempt to synthesize research related to MTM/VF coal extraction as to convey an understanding of the effects of…show more content…
MTM/VF has become an increasingly polarized issue following several devastating floods in southern West Virginia, which have been linked by environmentalists to the potential for MTM to increase flooding in communities surrounding mining operations.
While MTM/VF is broadly categorized as surface mining and synonymous with traditional strip and contour mining, MTM is distinct in terms of its scale and management of overburden material. While surface mining for coal in Appalachia has been ongoing since the mid-20th century, it was until the 1980s primarily on the scale of areas smaller than 400 hectares. MTM in West Virgina, southwestern Virgina, eastern Kentucky, and Tennessee, by contrast, disturbs areas on the scale of thousands of hectares. While techniques for valley fill construction vary across the region and are often site-specific, the general definition involves the placement of overburden – which is the displaced minespoil created in the detonation of as much as 300m of ridge top – in adjacent valleys, burying headwaters streams and springs. In the Appalachian region it is estimated that nearly 4000 km of headwater streams have been buried under valley fills. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was passed in 1977 as an attempt to regulate the
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