Mountain Mobilization Shuts Down Largest MTR Mine in Appalachia

 rock truck stoppedMore than 50 protesters affiliated with the R.A.M.P.S. Campaign
have walked onto Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine and shut it down.  Ten
people locked to a rock truck, boarded it and dropped banners: “Coal
Leaves, Cancer Stays.”  At least three have been arrested, with another
in a tree being threatened by miners with a chain saw.  Earlier in the
day, two people were arrested at Kanawha State Forest before a group of
protesters headed to the state capitol.  

“The
government has aided and abetted the coal industry in evading
environmental and mine safety regulations. We are here today to demand
that the government and coal industry end strip mining, repay their debt
to Appalachia, and secure a just transition for this region,” Dustin
Steele of Matewan, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked to
the rock truck.

Mounting scientific evidence shows that strip mining negatively impacts community health and miner health.
  Recent studies have found a 42 percent increase in risk of birth
defects around strip mines, and miners who spend at least 20 years as
strip-mine drillers have a 61 percent chance of contracting silicosis, a
virulent form of black lung.  “The coal companies are poisoning our
water and air, and they’re treating the workers no better than the land
– fighting workplace health and safety protections to get the most out
of labor as they can,” said Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va.

As
coal production declines, protesters are concerned that the region
will be left with only illness and environmental devastation as the
industry pulls out of the region and companies
file for bankruptcy to shed legacy costs.

Patriot
Coal is currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which union
contracts and pensions could be on the chopping block.  Both UMWA
pensions and the state’s Special Reclamation Fund are funded through a
per-ton tax on coal.  With Central Appalachian coal production in the
middle of a
projected six-year, 50 percent decline,
this funding stream is increasingly unsustainable.  Protesters are
calling on the coal industry and government to ensure that funding is
available both to honor commitments to retired workers and to restore
the land.

“Coal
companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming all
disturbed land to the highest standards.  Instead of arguing about the
‘war on coal,’ political leaders should immediately allocate funds to
retrain and re-employ laid off miners to secure a healthy future for the
families of this region,” said R.A.M.P.S. spokesperson Mathew
Louis-Rosenberg.

Appalachian
communities, from union miners to the anti-strip mining activists of
the 1960s, have a proud history of confronting the coal industry and
demanding an end to its exploitive practices with direct civil
disobedience. R.A.M.P.S. and other campaigns have returned to this
tradition to eliminate strip mining once and for all. Since its
founding in 2011, R.A.M.P.S. has organized a range of actions, from
tree-sits to blockades of coal trucks.  

Today’s protesters are among the hundreds of people across the country who are joining this summer’s National Uprising Against Extraction, using radical tactics to fight oppressive extractive industries and demand a transition to a sustainable economy.

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