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What is mountaintop mining?

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Mountaintop coal mining is a surface mining practice involving the: • removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and • disposing of the associated mining overburden in adjacent valleys -- "valley fills" Valley fills occur in steep terrain where there are limited disposal alternatives. Mountaintop coal mining operations are concentrated in eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, western Virginia, and scattered areas of eastern Tennessee. In 1998, the US Department of Energy estimated that 28.5 billion tons of high quality coal remain in the Appalachia coal mining region. Restricting mountaintop mining to small watersheds could substantially impact the amount of extraction that takes place. There are 5 basic steps to this method of mining: diagrams of the process • Layers of rock and dirt above the coal (called overburden) are removed. • The upper seams of coal are removed with spoils placed in an adjacent valley. • Draglines excavate lower layers of coal with spoils placed in ... more
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