Climate Ground Zero Strikes Again!
QUARRIER, W.Va.- Four protestors locked down to a coal truck entering a mine site in the vicinity of Quarrier and Decota at 7 a.m. this morning. Four other protestors joined them on the Kanawha County site, hanging two banners; one across the haul road and another on the back of the truck. The first banner read “Stop,” the second “Stop Mountaintop Removal.”
The nonviolent protestors intend to remain locked to the coal truck until law enforcement removes them. They have taken this action to highlight the detrimental effects of mountaintop removal mining, including its lack of economic sustainability.
“By blocking this road, we aim to bring attention not only to Appalachia’s disappearing mountains, but also to its disappearing job market,” said Jonathon Irwin, 23.
The highly active site is near Cabin Creek and Paint Creek, an area rich in union history. The two creeks were the locations of the first West Virginia mine war, fought from 1912 to 1913. Striking miners from 86 underground mines fought for higher wages, unionization and more autonomy from the company-town model.
Mechanization, which allows for strip and mountaintop removal mining, has drastically decreased mine jobs in West Virginia. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the early 1950s there were between 125,000 and 145,000 miners employed in the state; in 2004 there were just over 16,000. Draglines and other advances in technology resulted in a 37 percent decline in mining jobs between 1987 and 1997, while coal production rose 32 percent during the same period. As of 2007, the difference in coal production was roughly cut in half and jobs increased by 1,048.
Coal jobs are also threatened by the limited amount of remaining mineable coal. Nick Rahall, a Congressional representative from Raleigh County, claimed in a State Journal article that we only have twenty years left in West Virginia’s most productive coal seams and that the state should begin looking at alternative energy options.
Some communities have taken initiatives themselves; the Coal River Wind Project proposes turning Coal River Mountain in to an industrial wind farm. This would create 200 jobs for a two-year construction period and 40 to 50 permanent jobs. A mine on Coal River Mountain would create 57 jobs per million tons mined, according to a 2007 Mine Safety and Health Administration report. This is substantially below the U.S. Department of Energy estimates of 95 employees per million tons mined for southern West Virginia sites. The three mine sites proposed for the mountain have been estimated to be active through 2025, whereas the wind farm could last as long as the wind blows.
The protestors are also bringing attention to mountaintop removal as a national issue.
“There is a coal plant a block from where I live [in Oberlin, Ohio],” said Erika Zarowin, who locked down to the truck, “I get my heat and electricity from coal.” Some of the coal burned in Oberlin, like the coal bought by most American power utilities, comes from mountaintop removal.