Stripping Away Coal River Mountain

Apr 9, 2018

Coal River Mountain Watch outreach coordinator Junior Walk: Mountaintop removal coal mining, Coal River Mountain, Raleigh County, WV 4-4-2018It's a strange thing to watch a place you've spent a substantial amount of time in be stripped away and changed irrevocably. There are really two ways for me to try and tell the story of what's going on in these photographs: the way I'd tell it to an old timer who has walked the forest and knows the hollers and the ridge lines, and the way I'd have to tell it to the outside world. The newcomers require an explanation with a lot of maps, complicated federal court rulings, and the complacency and bumbling of regulatory agencies. Mountaintop removal coal mining, Coal River Mountain, Raleigh County, WV 4-4-2018 The way I'd tell the story of these photographs to someone who has dug a ramp, picked some blackberries, hunted, 4-wheeled, built a cabin, or watched the bears walk by on Coal River Mountain is a little bit different. I'd tell them that Alpha just topped out into Sycamore Holler from the Workman's Creek side and that means they'll be back into the heads of Dry Creek, Rock Creek, and Horse Creek, tearing right through the Pond Knob area (which, for the newcomers, is the highest point on Coal River Mountain). They are even going after the center ridge of Rock Creek. There's really no way to know that these areas are part of one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet unless you've lived in them. I can't blame people for not knowing that some of the biggest Ginseng in West Virginia has been dug on that mountain. Coal River Mountain is situated in an economically depressed area, with a deep local tradition of harvesting roots like Ginseng to sell in order to get by. So folks who dig it tend not to be forthcoming about things like where they get “the big seng.” I’ve spent my entire life exploring Coal River Mountain and I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to protect it. Mountaintop removal coal mining, Coal River Mountain, Raleigh County, WV 4-4-2018Republic Energy, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, has six thousand acres worth of mining permit right in the middle of the spawning grounds of salamander species that do not live anywhere else on the planet. Republic is the reason our communities suffer from higher rates of cancer, birth defects, heart disease, and many other health issues. In our area, the coal industry has had a long history of getting their way, from breaking the union in the mid-eighties to bloody mine accidents and strikes, to stripping us of our means of self-sufficiency and cultural practices. My life’s work is dedicated to stopping the mines from exploiting our communities. Even if you’re not well versed in mining issues here are a few ways you can plug in and help out:


Coal River Hemp Workshop Saturday, March 31

Mar 30, 2018

Join us tomorrow for a hemp workshop. Coal River Hemp Coal River Mountain Watch West Virginia Raleigh CountyCoal River Hemp is hosting a workshop at noon, March 31, at the Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation, 7503 Coal River Road, Naoma, WV. Food and drinks are provided! Come learn about this growing opportunity, and meet our stellar volunteer Vinnie who came to us through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program. We’ll be raising a half acre of hemp this year as yet another way to implement and demonstrate viable economic alternatives to coal. Check out the event page here and please indicate if you’re going.


Speak Out April 12

Mar 27, 2018

Join us April 12, 6:00 PM, at Clear Fork Elementary School, 4851 Clear Fork Rd, Artie, WV 25008, at the informal conference (public hearing) on the proposed revision to the Collins Fork mountaintop removal permit. At the head of Workman’s Creek and McDowell Branch on Coal River Mountain, the revision would allow Alpha Natural Resources to delay reclamation and also bury their used tires on the site. They want to keep it unreclaimed as a "start-up area" with a maintenance area, fuel storage, and coal stockpile to "serve other permits in the area." The total active, approved, and pending permits on Coal River Mountain amount to over 10 square miles of mountaintop removal and sludge dams. Please join us in saying "No!" to this latest bad idea. Collins Fork mountaintop removal permit revision Coal River Mountain Clear Creek WV


Thank You Students!

Mar 24, 2018

Last week we hosted students from Hamilton College (NY) and the University of Connecticut for spring break. They saw active mountaintop removal up close and they helped the Tadpole Project clean up from the mouth of Peach Tree to the forks of the hollow, Jazz Hollow included. We have another group coming April 13-14. Thanks for pitching in!    


Mountaintop Removal Update

Mar 11, 2018

This Thursday, March 15, we have a site visit scheduled regarding the latest revision to the Collins Fork mountaintop removal site at the head of Workman’s Creek and McDowell Branch on Coal River Mountain. The revision would allow Alpha Natural Resources to delay reclamation and also bury their used tires on the site. They want to keep it unreclaimed as a "start-up area" with a maintenance area, fuel storage, and coal stockpile to "serve other permits in the area." We’ll post more after the site visit and before the “informal conference” (public hearing) where residents can state their opposition to the renewal.


Dumps Are Higher and Better Use of Mountains?

Feb 17, 2018

The coal company demolishing Coal River Mountain, Alpha Natural Resources, has proposed a revision to one of their permits in order to delay reclamation and also bury their used tires. Their justification for the revision is essentially that complying with the regulations will inconvenience their operations. Rather than reclaim part of one permit, they want to keep it unreclaimed as a "start-up area" with a maintenance area, "fuel farm" (whatever that is), and coal stockpile to "serve other permits in the area." There's no justification given for the tire dump, but we figure it's probably just cheaper to bury their tires than to recycle them. Inspectors won't be digging them up to make sure there's nothing else buried, like batteries, used oil, trash, etc, so all that can easily be swept under the rug that is supposed to be a higher and better use of the mountain. The comment period to West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection ends Feb. 21 (Wednesday). Coal River Mountain Watch has requested an informal conference (public hearing) and site visit as allowed by law and submitted the comments below urging denial of this bad idea. Please consider sending comments to WVDEP to deny the revision, including the applicant and permit number below, keeping in mind the WVDEP is required to send your comments and contact info to the coal company. We'll also be running a petition soon to gather comments to deliver at the informal conference. Thanks!   Sent to Dustin Johnson, WVDEP Permit Supervisor at

Dear Mr. Johnson,
Coal River Mountain Watch OBJECTS to proposed revision 7 to Republic Energy surface mine permit S300208. In accordance with WV Code 22-3-20, we request an informal conference at a time and location convenient to the residents of Clear Creek. We request a site visit for the purpose of gathering information relevant to the proceeding no later than 10 days prior to the informal conference.
For the following reasons and more which will be elaborated at the informal conference, we urge that you DENY this application:
-The applicant currently has unabated permit violations on this permit (S300208) and their neighboring permits on this complex.
-The applicant is presently subject to a consent order at the contiguous permit S301712 for a pattern of violations for sediment control. The applicant has shown repeatedly that they cannot comply with something as basic as maintaining a ditch; they cannot be trusted to comply with this permit revision.
-The applicant has demonstrated a second pattern of violations at contiguous permit S301712 for method of operations. Two of those violations were for failure to comply with their reclamation plan, "corrected" by WVDEP granting a contemporaneous reclamation variance. In that permit, the applicant was apparently unable to comply with regulations and unable to plan for the actual conditions of the site, as if the steep slopes, narrow ridges, and ratio of overburden to coal seam were somehow new and unforeseeable conditions.

On The Big Screen and on the Road

Feb 10, 2018

See Walk on the Mountain in the Banff Film Festival World Tour. The description of this 19-minute film by 3 Point Productions says, “Junior Walk, an anti-coal activist in southern West Virginia, takes us through his battle with mining companies and why he believes mountaintop removal methods should stop immediately on this land he loves.” Watch the promo clip here The films on tour are here and the US dates and locations are here. Films shown vary by venue. Since Walk on the Mountain won’t be shown at all venues, you might check with a venue near you to see if it’s in their lineup.  If you can’t catch him on the big screen, maybe you can… See Junior Walk in person. He’s on a speaking tour coast to coast this spring with Post Landfill Action Network’s Point of Intervention College Road Tour. Check for a location near you here. Junior will be at several of the stops, but not all. Or you can pay us a visit and get a tour of the area.