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Claiborne County, TN

High Resolution Historic Image Overlays

People often ask, “Are there pictures of the mountains before mountaintop removal coal mining destroyed them?” Thanks to the United States Geologic Survey and Google Earth, they are right here at your fingertips!
Load image overlay to show Claiborne County’s terrain before
mountaintop removal coal mining began.

(Download these images by clicking on the pictures below)
CooperRidge1984 CooperRidgeCurrent
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Roxie Sells

A rememberance by Roxie Sells, a Tennessee grandmother and member of Save Our Cumberland Mountains.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that land that has been strip mined can ever be reclaimed to anything like it was before.

We had never heard of strip mining before 1948 or 1949 when they started working not far from our home in northwest Claiborne County, Tennessee. We thought they had found a rich pocket of coal and when they got it they would leave. Never did we dream that 57 or 58 years later they would still be there ripping and tearing up what used to be such a beautiful place.

No one who was not blessed to be born and live there for 25 years could know all the damage that’s been done. But many people must remeber when in the early spring of 1955 a sludge pond broke loose and did so much damage. I cannot remeber how many homes were lost, but three I remember well. One was a log house that looked like nothing could move it – but that flood did. The mother barely made it to a hill with her children. The older child of another family ran to a hill and watched as his home, his mother, and two little sisters were washed away.

Why Governor Bredesen Should Ban Strip Mining

Courtesy of

A great reason to ban strip mining: photo by Gena Lewis

Gov. Bredesen should support the bill to ban strip mining in Tennessee because:

1. Strip mining destroys far more jobs than it creates. Strip mining is a miniscule part of Tennessee’s economy and yet by destroying the mountains that tourists come to see and enjoy, it adversely affects one of Tennessee’s largest employers–tourism.

2. Strip mining destroys mining jobs. In every state, mining jobs have plummeted as strip mining for coal has taken root. This is because strip mining is so mechanized, while deep mining is not. Bulldozers are cheaper than people. We could create up to 5000 new mining jobs by banning strip mining in Tennessee (from 1971 Senate testimony, hearing before senate subcommittee on minerals, materials, and fules). Strip mining broke the back of the Mining Unions, which is why National Coal was able to brag in its SEC Filing:

“We are not burdened by below market long term pricing contracts and because our workforce is not unionized we do not have the extensive union pension and health care liabilities, including black lung liabilities and post-retirement medical benefits, that impact many of our competitors.”

3. Strip mining destroys headwater streams and highland watersheds. The crucial functions of these waters cannot be recreated or restored. Strip mining causes a permanent condition of pollution in violation of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act.

4. Strip mining degrades fishing and fisheries.

5. Strip mining permanently disfigures the landscape and destroys Tennessee’s diverse forests. Tourists can now see the strip mines as they fly into Tennessee.

6. Strip mine companies often declare bankruptcy when coal booms end, leaving the state to pick up the resulting cost of landslides, massive erosion and contaminated sites. This cost can run into the millions.

7. Strip mine companies clearcut in advance of mining. Hardwood forests do not recover on these sites. This undermines forestry as a sustainable industry.

VIDEO: Effect of Mountaintop Removal

Courtesy of Save Our Cumberland Mountains

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Appalachian Voices  •  Coal River Mountain Watch  •   Heartwood  •  Keeper of the MountainsKentuckians for the Commonwealth 

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition  •   Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowermentSierra Club Environmental Justice

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards  •   SouthWings  •  Stay Project  •   West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

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