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Mountaintop Removal Mining

January 26, 2010

Mountaintop removal mining has long-term consequences for the environment and human health.


Surface mining’s toxic legacy. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Removing a mountain to get at the coal underneath has many advantages over traditional mining: it’s less costly and less hazardous to miners. But in the journal Science, biogeochemist Emily Bernhardt from Duke University and her colleagues report that we may be underestimating the magnitude and the duration of the practice’s damage to the environment and human health.

BURNHARDT (Duke University):
Each of those mines is contributing a variety of trace metals, a variety of ions to the drainage streams, and this leads to significant stress and toxicity for the organisms living in those systems and ultimately for the people that are drinking the water in the reservoirs that are fed by those rivers and streams.

They report that the mines keep polluting the groundwater decades after the coal has been removed. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.