Activists stop strip mining machine on Coal River Mountain

July 14, 2010
Charles Suggs – 304 854 7372
Note: and

“It was usually around July you could go up there and sit and it was like the annual bear gathering up there… The whole area was full of laurels. The bears had tunnels through them, it was so thick…What’s going on today you know with the Brushy Fork of course, that whole area has just about been stripped out now, and that’s all been taken away.” Ed Wiley on Coal River Mountain

MARFORK, W.Va. – Protestors associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice have locked to and shut down a brhighwall miner on Coal River Mountain today. Colin Flood, 22, and Katie Huszcza, 21, are locked to the mining equipment on Massey Energy’s Bee Tree Surface Mine, near to the Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment (maps: zoomed out, up-close).  Their banner states “Save Coal River Mountain” alongside images of ginseng, a morel, a deer and a black bear, the West Virginia state animal.

Activists lay a banner reading "Save Coal River Mountain" in front of the highwall miner.

The human rights activists locked down in order to bring attention to the many local resources that will be lost if blasting on Coal River Mountain continues. This destruction led the four protesters, including 22-year-old Jimmy Tobias and 20-year-old Sophie Kern, both of whom acted as direct support, to take part in the action. “These mountains are home to some of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world and contain a variety of precious flora and fauna including edible and medicinal plants that can save lives, a wide array of extremely nutritious mushrooms, old growth forest and an abundance of deer and trout,” Huszcza said, “Coal River Mountain is priceless.”

Local resident Ed Wiley laments the loss of wildlife caused by the construction of the Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment, built in what was once some of the densest, oldest forest on the mountain.

“You could look off through the woods there and see a big Mamma bear with three or four cubs,” he says “But now they go on in there and remove the timber, and then start removing the overburden, and Momma bears with their cubs don’t come out of their dens until about the end of May, so they’re getting buried alive.”

The highwall miner and activists are approached by two bulldozers bringing parts needed for mining.

“When the timber is gone, when the topsoil is gone, when the air and water are destroyed, the less than 4 percent of our nation’s energy needs that mountaintop removal provides will be small consolation,” said Flood, one of the four protestors, “The coal companies and land companies are blasting this land, ruining its rivers and poisoning its people for the sake of flat screen TVs, pick-up trucks and profit margins.”

The activists are spotlighting dangers associated with the massive Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment, which is permitted to contain 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal waste and estimates put the current level at seven billion gallons.  Brushy Fork’s foundation is built on a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines. If the foundation were to collapse, as in Martin Co., Ky., the slurry would engulf communities as far as 14 miles away, according to Marfork Coal Co.’s emergency warning plan regarding the impoundment.

“The Brushy Fork sludge dam places the downstream communities in imminent danger. The threat of being inundated by a wall of toxic sludge is always present.  Blasting next to this dam increases this risk at the same time that it destroys the opportunity for renewable wind energy,” said Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, in reference to the Coal River Wind Project.

“The protesters expect a long fight before blasting on Coal River Mountain stops and they remain committed to that fight,” said Tobias, one of the members of the support team. “This is a fight for the heart of Appalachia and the soul of America,” he said. “Land and freedom have always gone hand in hand. When you strip bare the land, you strip bare freedom. We won’t stop until the land is safe in the hands of those in the community who care for it.”

“It [the destruction of wilderness] makes mountaintop removal an act of treason,” Flood said.

Climate Ground Zero’s action campaign, begun in February of last year, has kept up a sustained series of direct actions since that time, continuing decades-long resistance to strip mining in Appalachia.

47 Replies to “Activists stop strip mining machine on Coal River Mountain”

  1. Take a close look at this mess, which is only a minuscule part of only one surface mining operation that has surrounded our communities on Coal River. This mess is draining into our creeks, into our river, into our soil, into our gardens, into our drinking water. Whitesville psd pumps that same water into our homes. I’ve been up on numerous flyovers. They are absolutely destroying our mountains, forever! History is going to look back at us, our grandkids are going to look back at us and ask us why did we let them do this. I encourage all locals to get up in the air and look at what’s behind our ridges just out of your eyesight driving down Coal River Rd. Our steep slopes allow Massey to hide this mess from our eyes. Everyone on Coal river, including those that work for this renegade, evil, cult like outfit need to take a stand now. Enough is enough. They are wiping out God’s creation right in front of our eyes and we are letting them do it. What in the world could anyone think they are leaving for their kids and grandkids by not being willing to take up for them now? Have we become so desperate that we are willing to allow the total destruction of God’s mountains? We need to look inside ourselves and ask; am I selling my soul to the devil? Ain’t no preacher going to be able to answer that for anyone. Only God Almighty Himself will answer that.

  2. Colin, Katie, Jimmy and Sophie – Thank you for your bravery – you inspire us all. We commit to doing what we can in our own lives too, we will respond to your action with more action. Amen? Appalachia-lujah! —rev

  3. Climate Ground Zero, thanks for taking the fight to the front lines! Bo, your words inspire…there’s more of an apathy than a desperation, there’s a feeling that the company, their destruction, can’t be fought…and you, CGZ, AA, Mountain Justice, Coal River Mountain Watch, The Rev Billy posse, et al. are all proving that Getting Up, Getting Into It, Getting Involved is working! For the health of the environment which so many species depend on, Thank You all for continuing your valuable and difficult work!!!

  4. I worked this past week to prepare 500 men and women to leave this country to go fight a war that is not ours as I did this I wondered to myself what in the world are we doing. These men and women are being sent to die in a foreign land while we sit here and allow our own backyard and country to be destroyed by the same greed that perpetuates the violence in other lands. The terrorists are here and they are hiding behind big corporate names and money. Sometimes the unknown is more of a threat than those that make themselves known and claim responsibility for their deeds. The taliban doesn’t strike near the fear in me as the likes of Massey or any of the coal kings….or oil giants…..etc.

  5. Mark my words, sooner or later one of these young people is going to be injured or killed during one of these protests and their parents going to demand whomever responsible pay both criminally and civilly. After all, In your own words : ” Protestors associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice have locked down a highwall miner on Coal River Mt. “

  6. This action and these activists are a rare breed. When we hear that, “These mountains are home to some of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world and contain a variety of precious flora and fauna including edible and medicinal plants that can save lives, a wide array of extremely nutritious mushrooms, old growth forest and an abundance of deer and trout,” and we hear that Mountain Top Removal provides only 4% of our energy, and we hear that the practice destroys the possibility of establishing sustainable, clean wind power in its place, and we see the pictures of this horrendous destruction, the morality of the situation is clear.

    That is a hard point to make in most political debates in this country, but when it can be made we must act boldly and quickly, and that is exactly what these activists have done. And not only that, they have given us the poetry to help their message soar: “When the timber is gone, when the topsoil is gone, when the air and water are destroyed, the less than 4 percent of our nation’s energy needs that mountaintop removal provides will be small consolation. The coal companies and land companies are blasting this land, ruining its rivers and poisoning its people for the sake of flat screen TVs, pick-up trucks and profit margins.”

    We must support them in every way we can.
    Spread the word!

  7. Em, I suggest you speak with Jessica Lynch about your fear on lack of it of muslim extremists.

  8. Watcher, you’re a moron. Jessica Lynch was actually SAVED by the Iraqis, or did you ignore that fact in order to propagate your ignorance? She was wounded when her truck wrecked, was rescued by Iraqis, treated in Iraqi healthcare facilities (more gently, I might add, than the American women raped by their male American colleagues at KBR), and delivered alive into American hands by those selfsame Iraqi healthcare providers. Save your bigotry for idiots who might buy into it.

    The fact remains: the destruction of Coal River Mountain is something Massey is pursuing SOLELY because they FEAR the growing tide of support for the Coal River Wind Project. Massey’s thugs MUST destroy the mountain in order to destroy any hope of freedom for a subjugated region. The rise of sustainable energy in the belly of the beast rings a clarion death knell for mountaintop removal and no one knows that better than Don Blankenship. Thus, he must try to strangle an infant industry in its cradle.

    Coal River Mountain is a line in the sand. This is where the fate of the region will be decided. Brave activists like the ones who stopped destruction on Coal River Mountain are showing Massey to be the relentless, merciless servants of the Holy Profit that they are, caring nothing for the world around them outside the confines of their wallets.

  9. Yeah Bobby, I’d expect that kind of vile progressive venom from someone who once stated, ” I wouldn’t urinate down a coal miners throat if his stomach was on fire” and that’s putting it nicely. As for the growing tide of support for the wind project: SHOW ME THE MONEY!

  10. Oh, btw Bobby who did they SAVE her from? I’m so ignorant I don’t know. Who tortured her? Maybe we could consult Jeff Bosley over at Marshall, I’m sure he could tell us as he seems to know everything.

  11. Fact check, all opinions aside: black bear in southern West Virginia come out of hibernation pretty much as soon as the snow is gone and the weather has become mild, which can be as early as March in some hollows in some years, but almost always by April. As for “old growth”, most, if not all of this area has been logged extensively in the last 80-120 years. True eastern Old Growth is at least 150 years old. Hyperbole doesn’t help the environmental cause here, but I respect those that are willing to put their bodies where their mouth is.

  12. Ridge Runner–

    There’s a small amount of old growth on Pond Knob, Coal River Mountain, which is what’s being referred to here. Of course, the vast, vast, vast majority of the mountain has been timbered.

  13. One Nation, Under Attack (new song by carol lester)
    day and night from greedy oiligarchists, gasigarchists and coaligarchists
    Energy Uberalis exempt from following safe and clean drinking water acts since Bush/Cheney 2005 free for all. We will drink it from the gulf and soon up and down our coasts, we will breathe it in from the mountain top removal and we will be able to ignite it in our sinks from gas fracking. We don’t need to fight “them” over there. They are us and they are here. And we are under attack. Thank you so much for keeping your fight alive when it is just so $#)$#)$*( depressing to think about what an i possible clilmb it is to justice. Thank god you are there.

  14. Watcher I don’t know Jessica’s story except what I’ve read in her book and seen in interviews but I can tell you from personal experience that women serving in our own military are subjected to horrendous acts of violence at the hands of fellow service members. It is still covered up and the victims made to feel it was somehow their fault. But that is another subject and one I would rather not get into in detail in a public forum. And my fear is equally distributed among any religious extremist group. Be it muslim or christian. Right now my biggest fear is we are going to completely destroy that which gives us all life. The Earth.

    1. To quote Angry Black Bitch, that is fucked up from the floor up! @ :I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that it is a right to work state, which rellay means it’s a we can fire you for any reason or no reaon at all state. One hopes this story gets some traction in the MSM and Blankenship gets tarred even further than he already is! Miserable SOB that he is

  15. Bobby, why can’t you put the windmills on the mountain when the mining is done??? 🙂 By the way, I’m not a thug, and neither are my colleagues. A thug is someone who (and this is one example) who steals money from someone, kinda like what you all are doing when you go to these sites and “shut the site down.” That causes the workers to go home and not get paid for the rest of the shift, that is a thug.

  16. You know, you may have shut down my machine – but the most ironic part is the hypocrisy erupting from this site and its supporters. You know the steel you used to chain yourselves to the Superior Highwall Mining system was made with coal? That’s like a vegan protesting a slaughterhouse by writing SAVE THE ANIMALS in letters comprised by steaks and slimjims taped to the front door. Obviously the power you’re using to maintain this poorly coded and formatted mess of a website is also obtained from the very coal being produced here. You speak of the operation being messy – it is – briefly. There are laws in place to provide adequate reclamation of restructured terrain. How about instead of posting pictures of a mining operation in progress, go find one that is 10 years old. The trees are growing back and are at least 10 to 15 feet tall, the wildlife has returned, the water is clear – the only change is the basic layout topographically. After all, most of the so called filth on the ground in active pits is what was already in the ground to begin with, such as iron, coal, slate, silica, etc. which when pulverized and diluted with rain water will become rather messy. Yes coal is rather dirty when burned – companies are working on that with carbon scrubbers and such, the by-products of which can be used to make useful materials such as carbon fiber and the like. Have some patients, the earth will not perish in the meantime.

    Your only other option with current technology to produce enough power to support our way of life (and obviously yours too, since you’re using a computer that consumes roughly 400 watts of electricity) is nuclear. In order to put in a new nuclear infrastructure would take resources beyond the capabilities of our area and the surrounding areas – and even IF feasible, would put the electricity costs way out of the range of your average protester being unemployed or working minimum wage – as well as the vast majority of other citizens in the state. Nuclear also has far worse consequences than coal fire power, such as the waste that is capable of mutating your cells at a molecular level, infertility, contamination of water and ground, death of plants and wildlife (permanently), and the tons of radio active material that would have to be buried. Solar power? Keep dreaming – it takes a panel the size of a sheet of plywood to run one 60 watt lightbulb. Wind? Shyeah, as if. Wind is even weaker than solar. You could cover the entire continent with windmills and would struggle to keep up with demand. There’s a reason why these types of power generation haven’t been largely commercialized at a level big enough to even put a dent in nuclear and coal – that reason is it isn’t feasible.

    So that only leaves one option that is remotely possible – dragging electrodynamic tethers through the ionosphere using weighted dummy satellites to keep them in orbit; somehow circuiting them together to make a network large enough to produce real power, and figuring out a way to beam it to the ground into a gathering station using microwaves. There’s a lot of power up there in that big blue yonder – how about you guys try to figure that one out and leave the current methods of producing power to maintain civilization to the professionals.

    Sincerely Yours,
    The Smarter Than Your Average Coal Miner

  17. Dear coal miner, The new climate bill waiting in the senate will allot 140 billion to nuclear energy, 2 percent of oil goes to powering the grid. The rest is coal, hydro etc.
    Now, how did this happen? Where is the money to build alternative energy infrastructure? It’s not there, alt energy is being ignored in the legislation right now. Pay attention to the Geo-engineering report coming out this month from the printers. The energy lobbyists have also locked this in. Sierra club and other environmental lobbyists have been bought and paid for. We need these type of activists on the hill, lobbying in their place.

  18. Dear Bee Tree High Wall miner, that was very well written and articulate but I’ve seen the reclaimed areas and even though there are trees growing back and some wildlife in the area the damage that was done and is being done is not worth the 5-7% of electricity we get from it. Is it? I don’t think so. I’m just curious though if you don’t mind me asking how old are you?

  19. First of all Watcher, (Kevin Honaker), just so we all know your ignorant lazy ass, you and your Massey constituents, who up hold a murderous rogue outfit like Massey, what the hell are you thinking. You have just witnessed Massey murder 29 of your co-workers, don’t that mean anything to you. Instead, you guys are out boosting how good Massey is. The day will come, when Massey will put the noose around your neck, just as they have, with the recent 29 miners. For each day that you work, that noose is getting tighter, and you all don’t even know it’s coming. Go ahead and up hold Massey, because you are playing right into their hands. Massey is definitely impressed, that they were able to find as many ignorant people that they can brain wash, and if they told you to shovel shit for the rest of your life, that’s what you would do, like it or not, because if you didn’t, they would simply fire your ass, and the bad thing about it is, that you all know it, and can’t do nothing about it, and if you could, not one of you have the backbone to stand up to them. Admit it, they own you, and there’s not a damn thing anyone of you, want to do anything about it. I admire CGZ, for their persistence, and your courage, that you all display. This is our land, our communities, and we will take it back!!!

  20. You claim to know everything about surface/underground mining and processing if coal, but you all dont even know the difference between a bulldozer and a loader??? Pathetic, very pathetic!!! And highwall miner, very well put!!!

    And was that Benjamin in that video???

  21. brushy, i’m sure everyone knows the difference between a dozer and loader but why piddle over words….??? for goodness sake the underlying issue is what is important not whether someone slips up and calls a dozer a loader…..i agree with watcher where has that wv fire gone that my grandmother and the people of her time had….those that stood up to the coal companies? i just don’t get this apathetic attitude that so many people have now. Where have the Mother Jones of this world gone?…..inside their air conditioned homes playing video games or hyped up on anti depression and pain medication I guess.

  22. retraction….i don’t agree with “watcher” ….I agree with mountainsaver…..too early and not enough sleep

  23. Mountainsaver (Chuck Nelson), just so we all know who YOU are. Kevin Honaker ? Man you’re so far off it’s not funny. As for a noose around someone’s neck,your’s is already there with every puff you take. Talk about someone’s ass being owned, that little cigarette own’s your’s. Clean up you’re own act before you preach to me.

  24. Ok Watcher, you are correct in knowing who Mountainsaver is. So where yours balls? Tell everyone here who you are, unless you are to chicken shit afraid to do it. Since you know who I am, you’ve got to know where I live. I invite you to come visit me, and lets talk, about how Massey is so wonderful. This is your chance, are you going to blow it, or are you going to sneak around and catch me with my back turned, because you are to chicken shit to face me. You are a coward, and always will be. Keep on kissing Massey’s ass, because that all your good for anyway. Hope you have a terrible day! Come see me dipshit.

  25. Mountainsaver, to answer your first question,their where they are supposed to be. To answer your second, no thanks, I’m having too much fun watching you fish, and as for the invite,again no thanks. Oh btw when did I profess my adoration for Massey ? I have nothing to do with them. There you go again, name calling when faced with facts. How adolescent and sad.

  26. Chuckie, tell us about your days working for Massey… Tell us how it feels to show everyone on TV that Raymond Safety ring… Also tell us how it feels to fail a drug test and get fired from Massey. Do you and Ed Wiley share stories about how coal made the younger days of your life great? Wasn’t anything wrong with mining coal until you stopped getting those big paychecks , was there?

  27. Defamation? Funny you would mention the legality of something now, when you were ready to throw the legal system under the bus when it involved “activists” tresspasing endangering miners lives. Making yourself a public figure invites all sorts of criticism. Get over it.

  28. Dave,

    The money isn’t there because it won’t work – why spend money on something that’s doomed to failure? I really hate to ruin your day because I too know what it feels like to believe in something and be 110% sure that you’re right, but unfortunately your way of thinking is just plain incorrect. Might I ask exactly what alternative power method(s) you’re talking about? I’ve covered all of basics but water power… if you want hydrodynamic power generation you have to fill up hundreds of miles of valley with water and build a dam… once again worse than a mining operation. I ask you to please research the basic mechanics of power generation, the transfer of energy, conservation of energy, and the laws of thermodynamics. If you really punch the numbers up only one solution really becomes obvious – and it’s already in place.

    Lets start by discussion power usage and consumption. The average household in America uses 38.35 kWh a day. A kWh is 1000 watts used over one hour – or one kilowatt. A typical central AC draws about 3.5 kilowatts, so in an hour it uses 3.5 kilowatt-hours. And a 100-watt light bulb uses 0.1 kW, since 1000 watts = 1 kilowatt. Now, lets discuss a windmill. The physics involved when turbines harvest the power of the wind to produce windmill power sets the maximum theoretical efficiency limit of any wind turbine to 59%. When real world engineering requirements are also factored in, even the best turbines only attain 35% to 45% efficiency, and other essential system components such as the generator, bearings, and power transmission add further inefficiencies. As a result, only 10-30% of the power of the wind is ever actually converted into usable electricity. Lets do some math:

    In our case, our average wind speed over the year is about 4 meters/second, which is pretty reasonable [tops in January at 5 m/s, bottoms in July at 3 m/s].

    The swept area of an average 2 KW turbine for household use (which has a blade diameter of about 11 feet) is:

    Swept area = 22/7 x radius² (i.e. Area of a circle=¶.r²)

    = 22/7 x (1.8)² = 10.2 m2

    So Power Output = 0.615 x 10.2 x 4³
    = 0.615 x 10.2 x (4 x 4 x 4)

    = 401.5 watts

    Multiply this by 24 hours gives us 9635 watt hours or 9.6 kwh a day. Far short of our goal here. Unless you’re going to have four of these things in your yard or four for every household perched on a hill somewhere taking up wildlife habitat it’s a dumb idea.

    Now we’ll talk a little about solar. A typical panel, we’ll say 65 x 40 inches has a peak power output of 200 watts or so, and costs about 700 dollars. That is in full sun of course, on a typical day you will average about 50 watts or so per hour with cloud cover and our mountainous terrain blocking much of the days sun over the entire 10 to 12 hour light cycle. Then we have to consider night time, with no output. All residences are different, but lets say you can fit 15 of these things on your roof, you’ll average 750 watts per hour, or .75 kwh. Multiply that by a 12 hour light cycle and you get 9000 watts or 9 kwh a day. Still, far short. Then you have to invest in storage batteries and an inverter to convert DC into usable AC to conserve the power through the night time.

    While our elected leaders aren’t the smartest individuals, they certainly aren’t totally stupid and aren’t going to be wasting tax money on stuff that plain won’t work at the moment.

    And to Em, I’m 25.

  29. The Sierra Club and other peoples like that are tree hugging bastards, When you lights goes off you will know who to blame. If they was to come on my job site they would not leave the same way they came. I got two dogs that love the tastes of tree huggers asses. I would love to sit and watch the dogs having fun. e-mail

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