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'Public ecology' could help resolve mountaintop mining issues
Date:12/10/2012

Mountaintop mining is the practice of using huge machines to remove layers of soil and rock to reach thin seams of coal.

It is an efficient way to reach the high-thermal value, low-impurity coal in the central Appalachian range, which accounts for one-fifth of the nation's coal, and it is a resource for American energy independence.

But it has disadvantages mountaintops are deposited into valleys, trees and habitats are destroyed, chemical drainage may pollute streams, and many find it ugly.

Taking conflicts into account such as the benefits of steady jobs and tax revenue versus declining environments and resources are essential to a deliberative discussion about mountaintop mining, according to John Craynon, project director of the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science with the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech.

"Take advantage of the duality of stakeholders, such as a member of a mining-impacted community who is an employee of a mining operation," Craynon said. "The perspective gained via one role might inform decisions made in another."

Virginia Tech researchers writing for an upcoming issue of Resources Policy say federal and state government and mining industry efforts to increase the community's voice in decision- making have not succeeded in incorporating stakeholders' values and concerns.

A public ecology approach can give the stakeholders including members of the coal mining industry, federal and state agencies and courts, labor unions, environmental and community advocacy groups, land holding companies, private citizens, and researchers a new focus, according to co-authors Craynon; Emily Sarver, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering's Department of Mining and Minerals Engine
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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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