Communities at Risk from Mountaintop Removal

For years, it was impossible to track the spread of mountaintop removal coal mining in Central Appalachia over the course of time. Appalachian Voices has compiled 30 years of satellite imagery and other data to show how this destructive form of coal mining is gradually getting closer to communities, even as coal production in the region is declining.

Of the thousands of communities at risk, the research identified the top 50 where the adverse effects of mountaintop removal — including water pollution, increased health risks, poverty rates and population loss — is greatest.

On the map below, use the slider on the right and the zoom function to see the expansion of surface mines over time, and to explore the communities at risk.

A list of the top 50 communities | Data and methodology used in this study

Legend / Controls

Active Mining by Year
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Historic low-res
satellite imagery

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1984 2014

Featured Communities

Every community that is threatened by large-scale surface mining faces a unique set of challenges and issues. Here we have highlighted a few stories that show how some communities deal with these challenges.

Inman, Virginia

The small community of Inman is nestled between two ridges in the southwestern corner of Virginia. But the devastation of mountaintop removal coal mining has disturbed the quiet of this little town, coming within 320 feet of homes as recently as 2014. Residents were forced to speak out when a proposed mine on the opposite ridge would have completely surrounded the community with mining.

Sundial, West Virginia

Although recently idled, the massive Edwight Source mountaintop removal mine still threatens the tiny communities of Sundial, Naboma, Pettry Bottom and Edwight in West Virginia. And the adjacent Shumate coal prep plant — with it's massive a massive impoundment filled with nearly 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge looming over the communities — is still in production.

Bishop, West Virginia

Two mountaintop removal mine sites already loom within a 1-mile radius of the community of Bishop, W.Va. Now a proposed new Jim Justice coal mine will encroach even closer to the small community, situated directly above a church and directly upstream from an early childhood education center near the community of Bishop.



Top 50 Communities at Risk

  1. Krypton, KY
  2. Bishop, WV
  3. Roaring Fork, VA
  4. Wainville, WV
  5. Decota, WV
  6. Red Warrior, WV
  7. Busy, KY
  8. Lindytown, WV
  9. Tiptop, KY
  10. Yolyn, WV
  11. Duty, VA
  12. Oilville, WV
  13. Stonega, VA
  14. Simers, KY
  15. Freeze Fork, WV
  16. Saylor, KY
  17. Monarch, VA
  1. Stopover, KY
  2. Hampden, WV
  3. Monson, WV
  4. Nellis, WV
  5. Inman, VA
  6. Marthatown, WV
  7. Montcoal, WV
  8. Sundial, WV
  9. Stowe, WV
  10. Laurel Grove, VA
  11. Peytona, WV
  12. Penny, KY
  13. Exeter, VA
  14. Long Branch, WV
  15. Board Tree, KY
  16. Hemphill, KY
  17. Dunlap, KY
  1. Guyan, WV
  2. Hartley, KY
  3. Roda, VA
  4. Garrison, WV
  5. Baden, VA
  6. Edgewood, KY
  7. Printer, KY
  8. Amelia, KY
  9. Balkan, KY
  10. Fork Ridge, VA
  11. Oven Fork, KY
  12. Weyanoke, WV
  13. Marting, WV
  14. Opal, WV
  15. Blackburn Bottom, KY
  16. Puritan Mines, WV

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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