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PRO: Jobs, safety among MTR mining's benefits

Sarah Hopkins, Capital High School
Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is what it sounds like: the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams for mining. The West Virginia Coal Association states, "Mountaintop mining is simply coal mining that occurs at or near the topmost portion of a mountain."When mountaintop removal occurs, the associated mining overburden (dirt and rock covering the seam) is disposed in adjacent valleys. Removing the overburden is known as stripping, which is why mountaintop removal mining also can be known as strip mining.Strip mining is a form of surface mining. It's used when coal is close to the surface of the land but there are still one or more layers of overburden on top of it. To remove the layers, explosives and heavy machinery are used.Strip mining takes place primarily in the rugged terrain of Appalachia. West Virginia and Kentucky are the two states that use mountaintop removal mining the most.In 1977, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was passed. It established federal regulations for surface mining and required permits for mining on federal lands. SMCRA also created the Office of Surface Mining, which is charged with restoring abandoned surface mines and enforcing SMCRA regulations.A lot of people do not like strip mining, but why do they think it is so bad? There are many benefits of mountaintop removal mining:1. It provides jobs. Strip mining employs thousands of West Virginians, and having a job means having money. Since when is having a job and being able to provide for your family a bad thing?
Recently, Gov. Tomblin said, "All told, more than 63,000 West Virginians work in jobs provided by the coal industry. That is 63,000 families. Think about it for a moment -- that means approximately 250,000 people in a state with less than two million citizens are supported, in one way or another, by the mining of coal."Some people may not agree with the work, but in times like these, a job is a job.2. It's safer than underground mining. Underground mining is one of the most dangerous jobs there is. Mountaintop removal is safer than going underground because there's no risk of having something cave in on you.3. It costs less than underground mining. In surface mining, there's no need to dig tunnels. Not digging tunnels means less heavy equipment is required, and less heavy equipment means more money saved. Also, strip mining extracts more coal per worker per hour, and more coal means more money.4. The land is restored when mining is finished.
Since SMCRA was passed in 1997, coal companies are required to restore the land after the surface mining is done. They go back and refurbish the land, adding trees and everything else that was there before. This is called reclamation.Coal is something we need in order to survive, and there are a lot of benefits to surface mining. What is there to complain about?
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