“Mountaintop mining is practically raising the dead, while burying the living.” – Larry Gibson, resident of Kayford mountain
Kayford Mountain has been the home of Larry Gibson’s family since the 1700’s. More than three hundred of his relatives are buried in the family cemetery. Growing up on Kayford’s beautiful slopes, Larry treasures the best memories of his life from his early days on Kayford. He recalls “it wasn’t the fast life then, it was the good life.” When he was growing up on Kayford’s beautiful slopes, the mountains rose in every direction from his house.
In 1986, mountaintop removal operations began near his home. Over the next 20 years, according to Larry, “the slow motion destruction of Kayford Mountain has been continuous – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Coal companies have flattened more than 12,000 acres of mountain landscape around Larry’s home. Where he once looked up at the peaks of Kayford from his family graveyard, he now looks 300 feet straight down at a blasted and devastated landscape.
Currently, the mine comes within 200 feet of his family cemetery, and the blasts continually shake the ground. Flying rocks from the explosions land near the gravestones and scar the ground. As one visitor noted, “gone is the peace and stillness that the old cemetery once harbored. For Gibson and other family members, mountaintop mining is practically raising the dead, while burying the living.”
Larry Gibson has been one of the most powerful voices opposing mountaintop removal for the last two decades and has been featured in dozens of documentaries, news stories and articles on mountaintop removal, including National Geographic and a 2006 story by Vanity Fair that called mountaintop removal, “the greatest act of physical destruction this country has ever wreaked upon itself.” He has formed a foundation called the Keepers of the Mountains Foundation to support his family’s ongoing fight to protect their homes, community and mountains.
Photo and text contributed by Lucas Brown and provided courtesy of Appalachian Voices.