Moving mountains to stop mountain-top removal

Mountain Top Removal (MTR) is the most environmentally damaging form of mining known, and is sadly becoming increasingly common in the US. Working with well-established local groups, Climate Ground Zero (CGZ) has opened up an office one mile from Edwhite Mine in the town of Rock Creek, West Virginia. CGZ have developed a centre where people can come and see the effects of MTR first-hand, meet local activists and receive training in non-violent civil disobedience techniques.

Climate Ground Zero came to West Virginia, with one purpose; to reintroduce non- violent civil disobedience to the US climate movement. That is, to go beyond direct action and experiment with the true power of non-cooperation and resistance. Borrowing from the civil rights and anti-nuclear movements, CGZ are now being talked about as the most important front line campaign in the US climate movement.

In January 2009, the Fourth Circuit Federal Court overturned a ruling that halted all pending mountaintop removal coal mining permits for violations of the Clean Water Act. Immediately, Massey Energy began accelerated blasting in the Coal River Valley, and the explosions literally rattled the windows of CGZ’s Rock Creek office. After many meetings with community members and activists, CGZ decided to act and Coal River Mountain was the place they made their stand.

Coal River Mountain is the largest mountain along the Coal River, although that distinction had earlier belonged to Kayford Mountain to the North West. Kayford Mountain has been lowered over six hundred feet and is now a barren plateau. Coal River Mountain Watch funded a study of the wind energy of Coal River Mountain that determined that it was a prime site for a wind farm, which would provide more jobs and electricity than mining the coal. A statewide poll found overwhelming support for a wind farm rather than a strip mine, yet Massey Energy, continued preparations to blast on the mountain.

On February 3rd activists hiked in the snow 17 miles to the mountain-top and chained themselves to the excavating equipment before the workers arrived. This action received considerable statewide media attention and resulted in Massey backing off preparations. Other actions soon followed. On February 14th blasting began on Clay Brach, above the home of Bo Webb, and dangerous fly rock began landing close to his house, the dust covering his garden. On February 16th activists climbed up to the site and sat in the blasting zone, stopping the blasting for three hours. The next week, for the first time ever, an EPA officer visited the site and issued four citations for violations of the blasting regulations and blasting has yet to resume there.

On June 23 2009, at a CGZ organized protest, NASA scientist Dr. James Hanson and actor Darryl Hannah were arrested with 30 other citizens at the gate of the Massey Edwhite Mine, which drew considerable international media attention. CGZ’s goal is to continue to ramp up the pressure until the government steps in and enforces the law in West Virginia. They are committed to continue this work until the ecologically devastating practice of mountain-top removal is banned.


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