CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Seven people, including at least one West Virginian, locked themselves to a 500-pound potted tree inside Arch Coal's headquarters in Creve Coeur, Mo. on Tuesday in a protest against strip mining.A larger group performed songs and dances in the building's lobby, according to the protesters, who are affiliated with the groups Radical Action for Mountain Peoples' Survival, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, and Mountain Justice."We're here to halt Arch's operations for as long as we can. These coal corporations do not answer to communities, they only consume them. We're here to resist their unchecked power," Margaret Fetzer, one of the protesters, said in a news release.Arch Coal, the nation's second-largest coal company, operates several strip mines, including mountaintop removal mines, in West Virginia.
Kim Link, a spokesman for Arch Coal, said of the protesters, "We respect their right to protest peacefully on public property."Arch is committed to providing responsible, affordable energy that powers the working world and meets the stringent environmental standards of U.S. regulators," Link said.Dustin Steele, of Mingo County, was one of the people who locked themselves inside Arch's office building."From the Battle of Blair Mountain to the current fight with the Patriot pensions, the people of central Appalachia have been fighting against the coal companies for the past 125 years," Steele said in a press statement released by the protesters."The struggle continues today as we take action to hold Arch Coal and other coal companies accountable for the damage that they do to people and communities in Appalachia," Steele said.Today, Arch's coal operation in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming is the largest mining complex in the world.CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Arch Coal had already begun work at Blair Mountain. Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.