Since Monday, July 20, 2009, I have made four reporting trips to Cook Mountain in Boone County, WV, where a mountaintop removal coal operation has advanced to within several hundred feet of the largest of three Cook family cemeteries located on Cook Mountain. The three separate burial sites hold the departed dating back to William Chapman “Chap” Cook, a Union soldier with the West Virginia Cavalry. About 75 yards from the largest cemetery, where approximately 27 men, women and children are buried, there is an overlook where the coal extraction machines operate directly below. Below is a series of 4 images made over eight days from this overlook to illustrate the rapid pace by which Horizon Resources, LLC is moving to remove “a fist full of coal” just several hundred feet from Cook family graves.
JULY 20 2009
JULY 23, 2009
JULY 26, 2009
JULY 28, 2009
The blasting is getting closer and closer to the cemeteries. Yesterday, the overlook area was covered with a thick, grey, gritty dust. It piled up in the crevices of the leaves in the trees, it lay on Cook Mountain Road, less than 75 yards from the largest cemetery, and it extended in a grey shroud down the mountain, through the trees. A drilling rig had moved around the mountain, closer to the cemetery, and was busy drilling blast holes. Had you been standing on that road, walking towards your family cemetery when that blast went off, you’d be covered in the silica and diesel laden dust.
The road the Cook family and friends have traveled over the years is barely navigable by 4-wheel drive, whether traveling from the James Creek or the Lindytown side of Cook Mountain.
If you and your vehicle make it up the winding, slippery, rutted road – you’ll have to travel over 5 mud and rock roadblock mounds over the course of one mile to reach two of the Cook cemeteries. If you travel from Lindytown, you’ll have to cross those same road blocks to access Chap’s grave site
When Danny Cook attempted to visit his family cemetery on Cook Mountain in late June, he found the access roads blocked off by five to six steep, man made berms surrounded by four foot trenches and in some cases, water. The Cook Mountain mine site, operated by Horizon Resources LLC, is several hundred feet away and advancing in the direction of the Civil War-era cemetery and the family’s ancestral land. On the dirt road that runs alongside the gravesite, Horizon Resources LLC has drilled holes to measure coal seam depth. The Cooks, many of whom still live in James Creek Hollow down below, do not own mineral rights to Cook Mountain, and are unsure of their surface rights. Horizon, which is jointly owned by Massey Energy and the International Coal Group, is free to blast away the bones of the dead, exposing a thin strip of coal that will be mined and quickly burned.
The following video shows the family visiting the site and talking about Cook Mountain history and the oncoming devastation: