What is that? It is exactly what it sounds like. Coal companies set-up explosives around the tops of mountains and literally blow these areas away to expose coal deposits under the surface.
Obviously the result of this style of mining is the complete destruction of entire eco-systems and natural resources in return for easier access to coal.
There is also a serious human cost associated with mountaintop removal. A study performed by the Eastern Kentucky University found that children in Letcher County, Kentucky suffer from an alarmingly high rate of nausea, diarrhea, vomitting and shortness of breath. The study connected these ailments to sedimentation and disolved minerals that have drained from mine sites into nearby streams. The study also found that long-term effects may include liver, kidney and spleen failure, as well as bone damage and cancers of the digestive track.
In addition to these health ailments, mountaintop removal coal mining also undermines the ecosystems' ability to naturally control flood waters and mud flows so that many towns have been seriously damaged by severe mudslides and flooding.
Last summer, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought some Bank of America executives out to areas of Appalachia to see the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining. Bank of America has done business with several coal companies who participate in this destructive process and the company has also issued loans to such companies. NRDC was hoping an educational campaign might encourage Bank of America to limit loans to these coal companies.
On December 3rd, Bank of America changed its policy with regard to companies that utilize mountaintop removal coal mining. Their new policy states...
Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.
NRDC has praised Bank of America for making this change and it encourages other banks to follow suit. It's not a perfect policy, but a step in the right direction.
To read about the new Bank of America policy, click HERE.
To read about mountaintop removal coal mining, click HERE.