Consequences of Coal Mining for the Landscape

Coal is a flammable hard rock which is black in color and is used as a fossil fuel. Coal is a sedimentary rock that is formed by the pressure brought about by rocks laying on top of peat. It comprises of 65 – 95 % carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, Sulphur, and nitrogen. It is the largest domestically produced energy source in America. Coal is used to generate a huge chunk of the country’s electricity. Depending on how deep the coal deposit is, it is normally extracted from the ground using open-pit mines. Conveyor belts and wagons are used to transport the coal from the mines.

Decapitation of mountains and clearing of forests

The harvesting of coal normally causes damage to landscapes and the surrounding vegetation; this is thanks to the methods used in getting access to it. A good example is the coal mining at the Appalachia Mountains. The coal mining was done by use of explosives to penetrate the areas around the mountain. This led to the clearing of the adjacent forest. Most of the time, these trees were piled up and burned. The extensive drilling of rigs created a series of holes in the ground and in which explosives were laid. The miners used ammonium nitrate and fuel oil for explosives. This led to the startling of wildlife, shaking of the ground and in some instances cracking of house foundations. This also caused pollution of air with dust and rocks. These blasts sheer off up to 800 to 1,000 feet from mountain tops.

An estimated 800,000 acres of forest were destroyed and 470 mountains and mountain ranges sheared off thanks to coal mining. What nature took hundreds of years creating is normally dismantled piece by piece by the heavy earth moving equipment in a few years. Even when the operators claim that they will revive the forests, the truth of the matter is normally that they leave biological wastelands when compared to a natural forest.

Slurry water bodies and barren landscapes

What were once habitats to wild animals and breath-taking landscapes, have been stripped down by the mining operations and are normally pushed into adjacent valleys. The material that has been blasted off the coal seams is known in the mining industry as spoil or overburden. These materials end up covering adjacent valleys and streams in the rivers around the region. Over 1,900 miles of such streams have been degraded by the mining operations. These streams are the lifeblood for wildlife, they are crucial for healthy fisheries, and are important in maintaining the quality of water downstream. The sludge from coal mines and purifying factories is black in color and contaminates water bodies leaving them looking slurry.

From 1930 to 2000, coal mining has altered around 2.4 million hectares of natural forests and landscapes. The mining activities left the lands barren long after the mines were shut. Despite countries legislation requiring reclamation plans, re-seeding of plants is difficult. This is because the soil left behind is normally damaged thoroughly. In the state of Montana, replanting projects have only been 20 to 30 percent successful.

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