I have long been deeply disturbed by mountain top removal methods of mining coal. Vast tracts of land are permanently degraded from a great number of standpoints. In essence, for many purposes the land is taken out of circulation for the remainder of foreseeable human history. Perhaps most importantly the ability of the land to support a clean watershed is substantially diminished and poor practices often lead to spills that poison drinking water and wildlife. A mine owner gets all of the value without paying society for what he takes from this and future generations. This article looks at putting quantitative value on the process. This is a step in the direction of addressing this under-reported environmental catastrophe.
The scale of mountain top removal is hard to grasp. They move the rubble around as it cannot be disposed of so it is not always obvious from the photos that they literally turn the entire mountain from solid rock to rubble and sand. When done they take the rubble and fill in the valleys, put some dirt on top and plant grass. Once there was forest that captured much of the water and released the rest relatively slowly or allowed it to enter the water table after filtering slowly though rock and soil. Now the water can easily and quickly soak through the sand and gravel and leach out any toxic minerals. The environment is degraded for millenia.
There are a number of organizations that work to stop Mountain Top Removal. ILoveMountains.org has a good deal of visual information including aerial photos and Google Earth imagery to help better understand the scale. They are all about ending mountaintop removal so one could argue that their words are biased. But there is no arguing with photos and they have a good deal of graphical imagery showing the magnitude of the problem.
Comparing land use of wind vs coal HERE
Aquifer Damage from coal mining HERE