Bannerhang and Blockade
Auguest 18, 2003
the sun began to immerge, earth first! affinity groups were
busy simultaneously unfurling banners and blockading the entrance
to the (Zeb Mountain) mountain top removal mine in Scott and
Campbell county. Both the three men locking down and the two
women dropping the banner were prepared to sacrifice their
freedom if need be to make a stand for the mountain.
The Rocky Top Trio affinity
group was busy at the entrance to the Zeb
Mountain mine. Driving up in the dark, the group piled out
of vehicles and quickly began unloading gear. Two pre-made
barrels were rolled into place and rocks and cement were poured
into them while a banner saying "No Mountain Top Removal"
was hoisted above.
At 5:15 am miners began to show up for work and the trio
and support crew got into position. The trio locked into the
barrels and to each other, forming a blockade facing oncoming
traffic to the mine.
The police and coal miner liaison began a conversation with
the first miner to approach the blockade and had a good conversation
about mining practices.
Coal companies want to mine thin layers of coal by blasting
off the tops of mountains. One of the miners revealed that
30'-40' holes in the mountain top will be drilled through
rock until coal is reached. "You can tell when coal is
reached because the drill just kind of sounds different and
sort of rattles" he said. Explosives are then inserted
into the holes and set up so that they go off with 15 second
intervals between each blast. He recalled an underground miner
coming to his site and being scared to death. "You constantly
have to be on the alert for falling rock" he reminisced.
Robert Clear the owner of Robert Clear Coal Corporation,
was called in by one of the miners.
Robert Clear is calling the mining of Zeb Mountain "contour
mining" and stated that it is not mountaintop removal
and that what they are doing actually helps the mountain.
Another miner with him stated that "the Appalachian mountains
are pretty steep and flat places to build on are hard to find.
We are required to re-contour the mountain back to its original
shape. We open up areas, why you could build a Wal-mart in
Upon realizing that we were not in fact going to move, the
police were called in. Robert Clear became increasingly upset
as the clock ticked on. He pays $7000 per hour for the lease
of the equipment, plus the cost per hour for the miners themselves.
Attempts to drive around the blockade were futile. The night
watchman on duty grimly watched from the other side of the
blockade (he was caught unaware and was blocked in). It took
a little over three and a half hours to move the blockade
(the cement had not fully hardened).
local police were very courteous to us and explained that
they had gotten "a lot of flack about this mine from
The second affinity group,
the Banner Busters, began the daunting 150'
climb of a large billboard off I-75 and carrying all their
gear (including two heavy banners which said "Stop Mountian
Top Removal"). Ground support was crucial in assisting
with hoisting the banners part of the way of the pole using
a pulley system.
The women were in excelling shape and had thoroughly prepared
for what they would face. The banner drop went off without
a hitch. One of the climbers, Meagan Carter stated that the
view from the top was breathtaking. The fog covered the valley
and only the mountain tops were left poking out.
Both Carter and Debbie Shumate spoke of the reverence they
felt at that moment for the majesty of the surrounding mountains.
"It made what we were doing so clear, we were making
a statement of our alliance with the mountains themselves.
I love camping and hiking in these mountains, they don't belong
to some corporation with a temporary permit, but to all of
Tennessee." Shumate stated.
"This mountain has stood for eons, and now some greedy
corporation wants to grind it to rubble for a temporary profit.
For 40 jobs we all are being forced to sacrifice our heritage.
Zeb Mountain is just the first though. Permits are already
lined up for mountain top removal all along the Cumberland
Plateau! People come from all over the country as tourists,
to view, hike, camp or fish within these mountains. Lots of
private businesses make their living from these visitors.
This is a clear case of short term gain for a minority and
long term loss for the majority" said Carter. "I
want to make sure there are mountains left for my daughter
The climbers stayed with the banner for hours and then descended,
leaving their message for all of the passing traffic to read.
"Most people don't know that this is even happening,
we are here to make sure that they do" said Shumate.
The trio consisting of john johnson, Dan Anderson & Mathew
Hamilton were released from jail the same day paying $190
court cost and no fine each. The entire action cost $1,000
Katuah Earth First! is in need of contribution to pay for
brochures, stamps, gas and action supplies. All members are
committed volunteers and 100% of the donations go to campaign
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