Mountaintop Removal Maps and GIS Resources

Mountaintop removal coal mining is changing the American landscape on a scale that is hard to comprehend unless you see it from the air. Anyone who has ever flown in a small aircraft over southern West Virginia or eastern Kentucky will never forget the experience of seeing the massive scale of destruction – mountain after mountain blown up and dumped into valleys as far as the eye can see.

Appalachian people working to save their communities long dreamed of a way to fly reporters, decision-makers, and thousands of Americans over the Appalachian coalfields to see this destruction first hand. The collection of mapping resources below are our best attempts to approximate that tour.

GIS Download Central

Whether you’re a GIS professional or are just learning to use Google Earth, you’ll surely find these maps and data useful. If you have resources to share, please email us.

Downloadable Resources

Reclamation FAIL Studies

Many wonder how coal companies justify blowing up the oldest mountains on the continent. Is it because it’s more profitable for them? Because it employs fewer miners? Nope, according to the coal companies, they are blowing up mountains because the Appalachians need more land for economic development.

The promise of “reclaimed” flat land for economic development is a big, flat lie. Two scientific studies reveal that 1.2 million acres, including 500 mountains, have been demolished by coal companies in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. Over 89% of sites are not currently being used for economic development.


Reclamation FAIL map

Details of Studies


2009 Extent of Mining Survey
Shape files, Google Earth files, data tables, and more.

2010 Reclamation Survey
Shape files, Google Earth files, data tables, and more.

Tour Mountaintop Removal in Google Earth

If you already have Google Earth on your computer, you can view the Appalachian Mountaintop Removal Layer without downloading anything.

The layer includes a high resolution mine site tour, the National Memorial for the Mountains, before and after image overlays of mines, mine-site overlays on 36 U.S. cities, a 3-D model of a dragline, and more.

Once you have Google Earth open on your computer, open the “Global Awareness” folder in the “Layers” menu at the bottom left portion of your screen. Clicking on “User’s Guide” will help you make the most of your visit.


Explore the Global Awareness folder

Read the Earth Outreach case study


Tour file (kmz)

Tour network link – same content above, but the tour is read directly from Google servers (kml)

Mountaintop Removal on 36 U.S. Cities

For most people, its hard to understand how big 10,000 acres really is. So, we superimposed the Hobet mountaintop removal complex in Boone County, WV on 36 of the largest cities in the United States. As shown on the right, Hobet is as big as Manhattan Island in New York City. You can explore the city overlays in three ways: still images, videos, or directly in Google Earth.


Videos and Still Images


Hobet overlays (kmz)

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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