Activists Block Mining Operations on Coal River Mountain

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
posted by rampsmedia

MARFORK, W.Va. – Two protesters associated with the RAMPS Campaign halted blasting on a portion of Alpha Natural Resources’ Bee Tree mountaintop removal mine on Coal River Mountain today by ascending two trees.  Catherine-Ann MacDougal, 24, and Becks Kolins, 21, are on platforms approximately 80 feet off the ground within 300 feet of active blasting on the mine.  The banners hanging from their platforms read “Stop Strip Mining” and “For Judy Bonds” in honor of strip mining activist Julia “Judy” Bonds of Packsville, W.Va. who died of cancer earlier this year.  The activists demand that Alpha Natural Resources stop strip mining on Coal River Mountain and that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection prohibit future strip mining in the Coal River Watershed.

“I feel, with the keen urgency of extinction, that Alpha Natural Resources cannot be allowed to tear apart Coal River Mountain and allow all those living below it to suffer for their profits. The Coal River watershed cannot tolerate any more damage. There is no way that I can begin to detail the comprehensive destruction that surface mining and mountaintop removal wreak on the forest ecosystem of the southern Appalachian mountains,” said Catherine-Ann MacDougal.

Coal River Mountain is the last major intact mountain in the watershed, which encompasses roughly 570,000 acres in the heart of the southern WV coalfields.  Nearly a quarter of total land area in the watershed is being mined or permitted to be mined in the future, including over 5,000 acres of Coal River Mountain.  As of January 2011, Marfork Coal Company, a subsidiary of Alpha, has destroyed about 75 acres of Coal River Mountain on the Bee Tree permit, the only active mountaintop removal permit on the mountain.  Activists say they are determined to prevent further strip-mining.

Elias Schewel, 27, and Junior Walk, 21, are supporting the sitters from the base of their trees.   Walk, who grew up in Eunice W.Va. at the foot of Coal River Mountain says that he was inspired to take action, in part, by his lifelong relationship with Judy Bonds.

“The last two families to be driven out of this holler we’re in today were Judy Bonds and my great uncle and they both died of lung cancer. Judy spoke often about how hard it was to leave, but black water spill after black water spill, the blasting dust clouds, and fears for the health of her family forced her out. Packsville is gone. We’re not just losing our clean air and clean water. We’re losing our communities, our history, and our culture.”

Judy Bonds’ fears of the health impacts from coal operations have been increasingly backed up by research from WVU.  A recent public health study found a correlation between residence in a mountaintop removal area and higher rates of birth defects, even accounting for other socio-economic factors. Public health research has linked residence in coal-impacted regions to increased rates of cancer, kidney disease, and some other chronic illnesses, confirming long-held community concerns.

“Those who are drinking tainted water, breathing coal dust, and watching the mountains fall around them don’t need a scientific study to tell them what’s wrong,” noted MacDougal. Fellow tree sitter Becks Kolins remembers their first visit to the home of a Coal River Valley resident last year.

“He showed me his yearbook and pointed out everyone that had gotten cancer. The only teachers that hadn’t gotten cancer had made a point of not drinking the water.”

Lisa Henderson, Judy Bonds’ daughter and Coal River Valley resident, sees this action as a continuation of her mother’s work.

“I hope that today’s actions serve as a symbol that the struggle to live peacefully and pollution-free in the Coal River Valley did not end when my mother’s life did.  My mother and I often compared the fight to survive here on Coal River to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.  I am sure that generations from now, our children will look back on this movement also and the actions of the people involved, and ask the question of their elders, ‘Whose side were you on?’”

29 Responses to “Activists Block Mining Operations on Coal River Mountain”

  1. […] Tree sitting protests resume in coal country July 20, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr. var addthis_product = 'wpp-257'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true};A group called Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival is saying on its website: […]

  2. EK says:

    Y’all rock, thank you!

  3. Sid Moye says:

    Boogie, Chilluns!!!!

  4. Deb says:

    I can feel a smile beaming down upon these brave and dedicated souls.

  5. Charles says:

    Hell yeah y’all! *Tips hat to Judy*

  6. Sarah says:

    Thank you! Lot’s of love to y’all.

  7. Sarah says:

    Thank-you! Love to all of you.

  8. Bridgette says:

    I dunno if you guys know how insanely & overwhelmingly proud of you I am right now. You guys rock. My thoughts and prayers go out to you with the hopes that everything goes safely and effectively. Your beautiful people protecting one of the most amazing places on earth and I only wish I could be there supporting you guys right now. Till then I’ll keep spreading the word and sparking fires under people over the concerns regarding MTR. :’-) Keep up the good fight. Much love & solidarity.

  9. Austin says:

    Thank you so much for your dedication and courage. Thank you to the support staff and all involved in the planning of this action for maintaining the health and well being of the sitters. May the sit be long, peaceful, safe and effective!!

  10. Dorothy Reichardt says:

    You are so inspiring as you risk your lives to do what you feel called to do! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  11. Amanda says:

    Strength and solidarity to y’all!

  12. Ricki says:

    We in Tennessee are so happy and proud of you all! Keep strong and know that you have so much love and admiration from all of us.

  13. Anna G says:

    Thanks fern! you’re wonderful! ~WWC Eco Justice Crew

  14. […] over the governor of Montana’s offices in protest of tar sands development, and this morning, the RAMPS Campaign put a couple of tree-sitters up on Coal River Mountain to stop mountaintop removal coal […]

  15. Julian Martin says:

    Your are brave and an inspiration.

  16. Julian Martin says:

    Your are brave and an inspiration

  17. Paula says:

    Thank you for keeping up the pressure

  18. dp says:

    Awesome! Direct action keeps the Resistance on – it keeps our spirits stoked! Health & Courage, my friends.

  19. […] The RAMPS Campaign put a couple of tree-sitters up on Coal River Mountain to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. The tree-sit has stopped Alpha Natural Resources strip mining operations on Coal River Mountain. Catherine-Ann MacDougal and Becks Kolins currently are sitting in trees 80 feet off the ground about 300 feet from active blasting operations. […]

  20. […] The RAMPS Campaign put a couple of tree-sitters up on Coal River Mountain to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. The tree-sit has stopped Alpha Natural Resources strip mining operations on Coal River Mountain. Catherine-Ann MacDougal and Becks Kolins currently are sitting in trees 80 feet off the ground about 300 feet from active blasting operations. […]

  21. molly says:

    so proud of you all! solidarity forever!

  22. gretchen says:

    be safe,ya’ll! you have tons of love & support here in kentucky.

  23. horacio says:

    my thoughts of solidarity to the sitters and all supporting ramps, thanks for all your passionate work

  24. Solar power says:

    Amazing straight action keep the confrontation on it keeps our feelings stoked Healthiness and Courage, my friends.

  25. Concern for people’s health, the survival of communities, and the ecology of our planet are powerful reasons to take action. You are heroes and heroines and Mother Earth needs you. Thank you for your action.

  26. Superhippieslayer says:

    I cannot believe it you all had coal river mtn watch now ramps come on you dont have a chance of surviving people hate you they want to hurt you lucky for you they think you are not worth it.You are not heroes or heroins though you probably use heroin….I bet the moderator of this will not post it due to not wanting negative publicity…….Superhippieslayer for president

  27. Gabe says:

    Love you all!! amazing work, good for you for getting ppl back up on that mountain! proud of you, with all my support.

  28. Gabe says:

    love you all!!!! great work, i`m so happy to see another campaign up on that mountain! so proud, with support from the west.

  29. Kevin says:

    So much heart and courage! Thank you! You have a lot of support here in East TN.

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