Mountaintop removal refers to a type of mining that removes the summit of a mountain by using explosives to expose the coal seams underneath it, making it vastly different from the traditional mining practice of manually digging a tunnel through mountains. Mountaintop removal (which is also called MTR and mountaintop mining) requires millions of pounds explosives and can take off around 400 to 600 feet of elevation or even more.
Many people have praised MTR because it’s cost- and time-efficient, but it also has gained criticisms from those who think that it does more harm than good. To learn more about the two sides of this argument, people should first know the pros and cons of mountaintop removal.
List of Pros of Mountaintop Removal
1. It costs less than other methods.
Mountaintop removal might seem expensive at first glance, considering that it requires large amounts of explosives (which aren’t exactly cheap) as well as large, technologically advanced equipment that cost millions of dollars. However, proponents argue that it’s actually more cost-effective than traditional mining since it eliminates the need to hire numerous workers. As a result, mining companies can reduce the amount they’d pay on worker salary and benefits (including health insurance, which can be quite expensive since mining is considered to be a high-risk occupation). They can also avoid the bad publicity — as well as the legal costs and hassle — that can arise when their employees get injured or even killed during tunnel cave-ins and other accidents.
2. It saves time and effort.
Blasting away several hundred feet of earth is obviously less labor-intensive than traditional mining methods, which means that mining companies can expose coal seams and retrieve coal at a faster and more efficient way. Mountaintop removal also helps mining firms obtain coal from locations that would have been inaccessible if underground mining techniques were used.
3. It helps fulfill demands for energy.
With more and more people using electronic gadgets and appliances, the demand for electricity has steadily risen for years. Fortunately, mountaintop removal can help fulfill these demands by helping companies obtain coal (which is widely used in electricity production) in a faster and more efficient way.
List of Cons of Mountaintop Removal
1. It can harm the environment.
Opponents of mountaintop removal argue that it greatly contributes to the degradation of the environment. For one thing, it destroys entire ecosystems since it removes hundreds of acres of forests (which are either cut down or burned), taking away trees and plants that serve as homes and food for many animals. It also promotes pollution since many companies dump topsoil along with toxic mining byproducts and other debris into nearby streams and rivers. On top of that, mountaintop removal introduces air pollution and noise pollution into the area through the large trucks that cart away coal and the explosives that are used to blow up mountains.
2. It can harm human health.
Several studies have found that people who live near areas with mountaintop mining develop a wide range of illnesses, including certain kinds of cancer as well as lung, kidney, and heart problems. This isn’t really surprising since the blasting process used in mountaintop removal releases dust and toxic chemicals into the air, which can then be inhaled by those who live nearby. The mining byproducts that are deposited in waterways can leach into the area’s water table, causing residents to drink polluted water that contains dangerous chemicals.
3. It can cost people to lose their jobs.
As mentioned above, one of the main reasons why mountaintop removal is cost-effective is that it requires fewer workers than traditional mining. This can be beneficial for mining companies, but it can be devastating for workers who depend on the mining industry. When companies switch to mountaintop removal, these workers can lose their jobs and will no longer have the means to support themselves and their family.
Mountaintop removal comes with several pros and cons. Mining companies, government officials, and ordinary citizens should find a balance between these factors to enjoy the benefits of MTR while limiting its disadvantages.