Whitesburg KY
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Opposes mining permit




To the Editor:

A mountain is more than dirt, rocks and vegetation.

My family has owned the land I live on as far back as I can trace ownership. When my wife and I first moved back to Letcher County in 1973, I could walk for half an hour before I reached the head of our hollow, and then I could see strip mining off in the distance. Now I can walk for five minutes and look out on devastation that looks like a lunar landscape.

I would rest at the edge of a small cliff and watch wildlife play in the trees and leaves below. The cliff is gone now, and what wildlife remains is competing with domestic animals for survival.

Our hollow was fed by two streams which formed a “Y,” dividing the hollow into three ridges. Both streams are now dry; the mining companies have blasted to the levels below the springs that fed the streams. Even though the Reagan administration in 1983 prohibited mining with 100 feet of a stream, the mining companies have destroyed the springs and diverted any rainwater run-off to the other side of the ridge. As a result, a natural marsh on my land is now dust. Where cattails once grew and spring peepers hatched, there

They’ve been replaced by the

are now weeds and sand. We are

clanking of bulldozer tracks and

now using our sixth source of

occasional explosions, usually

water, and purchasing all our

without the sound of the warning

drinking water at the store.

sirens, which is a mixed

Our children used to play beneath

blessing.

a hillside “rockhouse” outcropping,

When the mining company

digging for arrowheads

was mining approximately 800

and playing in their “fort” in the

feet from our house, their blasting

middle of the forest. An old splitrail

sent rocks onto our property.

fence ran from the mountain

In at least 10 cases the rocks were

ridge to the stream in the valley

large enough to cause serious injury

below. There is highwall there

or death, and landed in areas

now.

where we commonly are

The middle ridge had an

found. Gravel-size sandstone has

abundance of native trees, bushes

landed on our attached deck, less

and wildflowers. I used to take

than 10 feet from our kitchen

my tree and flower identification

window. We have the normal

books and see how many I could

cases of popping of sheet-rock

find in that single habitat. The

nails and cracked drywall. Two

authors said that some of them

drilled wells have been destroyed,

should be classified as endangered.

and our two cisterns no

Flame azaleas in red, orange,

longer hold water. All of this occurred

pink and the rare purple;

when they were mining

yellow and pink lady-slippers;

much farther from our house than

ginseng and other herbs; groves

they currently propose.

of dogwood and redbud trees, as

In early August 2007, we

well as an occasional American

awoke on Monday morning to

Chestnut sprout, trying to overcome

the sound of a bulldozer pushing

the blight that wiped them

over trees. We saw that they were

out – all, and more, were in this

deforesting a hillside that is

hollow. Now the vegetation is

clearly visible from our house.

whatever is contained in the hydro

Even though the permit had not

seeding sludge that mining

yet been granted, they were preparing

companies use, plus the scraggly

to mine land that they

trees that are the first to return to

claimed was 320 feet from our

an area that has been destroyed.

house. Measurement proved that

Scrub pines, sassafras, locust,

they were within 260 feet. Even

and briars now sparsely populate

if they were at the legal limit, and

the hills – the oaks, hickories,

the permit were in force, it is insane

maples and other stately trees

that such damage would be

were pushed into piles and

permitted so close to an occupied

burned before the mining began.

dwelling. This can only happen

We took our children camping

in eastern Kentucky, where the

up the left fork of the hollow.

inhabitants are considered to be

In the morning we fixed breakfast

less valuable than rocks.

by the stream. The camping

The permit application lists

spot is now buried under overburden;

only the landowners of surface

the streambed below

land that has been disturbed in the

there is now crossed by several

past. This may be legal, but it is

black plastic bands, designed to

hardly ethical. Without full identification

catch the run-off from this new

of the land areas to be

proposed mining. Our children

permitted, the general public does

once raced toy boats in the

not know to protest until it is too

stream. The stream no longer

late and the damage has begun.

flows at all.

The maps that the coal company

The coal companies mine

is using contain errors; in one case

whatever coal is currently profitable,

they show a property line to be

then declare bankruptcy

running through our house. We

and forfeit the small bond they

now see that more extensive damage

had to post. They then return, in

is in the planning stages, and

the form of a subsidiary, to mine

we want our opposition to such

deeper or wider. Even if they did

destruction to be firmly noted now

“reclaim” the mine site, they can

and forevermore.

only push the dirt and rocks into

Known violations:

a rough approximation of the

Mining within 100 feet of a

original mountain. They cannot

stream.

restore the streams, native diversity

Destruction of (at least) two

of vegetation, and original

deep wells.

wildlife. All they can create is a

Casting blast debris onto occupied

Franken-mountain – a monstrous

property (several cases).

facsimile that will not return

Open burning of tree piles,

to nature for generations.

causing a haze which hung in the

The spiritual nature of this valley

valley for days.

is dead.

Mining within 300 feet (less

We used to be able to sleep

than 260) of an occupied dwelling.

with our windows open and listen

to the sounds of nature. We

especially loved the crickets,

MICHAEL CAUDILL

frogs, owls, and whippoorwills.

Blackey


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