Two weeks ago, Mountain Justice and RAMPS visited Alpha Natural Resources’ main headquarters in Bristol, VA, to let the company know that we’re very aware of the rash of new permits to mine Coal River Mountain inside and out. By the time those blockading the headquarters had been cut out and the banner-hanger had been retrieved from the front flagpole with a firetruck ladder, 8 of those taking a stand against Alpha had been arrested. All those arrested served some time in jail, and some chose to delay getting bailed out to serve some of their time, with the last person to be bailed out spending two weeks in jail. Bail for the group totaled $35,000.
We’re glad to have everyone out of jail, but this action was the beginning of this chapter of the fight for this mountain, not the end of it. Marfork Coal, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, has obtained new permits to mine 1,000 acres of the Eastern Side of the Mountain. This expands upon the already-permitted 3,000 acres in the Eagle 2 permit and the Beetree permit, which would mine the peak, western, and northern sides of the mountain. In addition, proposals have just been revealed for Alpha to destroy 2,000 acres of the southern side of the mountain near Rock Creek and Lower Sandlick.
Coal River Mountain has been our line in the sand ever since residents of the Coal River Valley called for direct action in 2005 to protect the last mostly intact mountain in the Coal River Watershed. We know that the coal industry is dying, and we won’t need to fight this battle forever; coal companies are trying to rip what they can out of this state before they go bankrupt and/or move their operations westward. If those who are fighting for it can protect Coal River Mountain now, we could protect it forever; at the end of this war, the final battle lines will be remembered in the stone of mountainsides for millennia.