FAMILIES WORRIED THAT CEMETERY WAS BULLDOZED BY MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL
Thursday, July 26th, 2007
For immediate release July 26, 2007
Graves over 200 years old desecrated?
Contacts: Larry Gibson (304) 542-1134; CRMW (304) 854-2324
Kayford Mountain, W. Va.-Citizens are outraged that a coal company may have bulldozed graves in a family cemetery dating from the 1700s. Catenary Coal, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Arch Coal, bulldozed a road at the Stover Cemetery, and has a blasting drill set up next to it. Stover Cemetery, located approximately 30 miles Southeast of Charleston, is surrounded by Catenary’s mountaintop removal site on Kayford Mountain.
“This is certainly not resting in peace,” said Bo Webb, who has relatives buried in the cemetery. “This cemetery is in a tiny oasis of trees surrounded by thousands of acres of devastation. They get as close as they can, and they didn’t consult with any family members before they started this work.”
Coal companies may not mine closer than 100 feet from the cemetery. Webb says the state historical preservation office told the company that a fence marked the cemetery boundary. Gibson says there were graves outside the fence, but ongoing difficulty gaining access has prevented the family from locating and marking all the graves.
“It looks like they’ve bulldozed part of the cemetery that was outside the fence,” said Larry Gibson, whose grandparents are buried in the cemetery. “People shouldn’t have to put up with this sort of treatment. Who would ever think that we would have to prove the location of our ancestors’ final resting place?”
Since discovering the road through the cemetery on Friday, July 20, Gibson and Webb were denied access until Tuesday, July 24. With the help of the attorneys from the Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment, they were allowed on site with WV Department of Environmental Protection inspectors and company engineers.
In the mountaintop removal process, coal companies clear-cut the forests and then blast the mountain. The remaining rubble is dumped into adjacent valleys and streams to form “valley fills.” Recent federal court decisions have held that the U.S. Army Corps Engineers has improperly granted permits for valley fills.
“This is about the rights of a people to hold on to our heritage and our culture.” Gibson said, “Is this country so desperate for electricity that a coal company can do this to a cemetery? It’s time we all stood against this industry’s abuses.”