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New Mapping Tool Visualizes 30 Years of Mountaintop Removal

Yale Environment 360 “Coal companies conducted widespread mountaintop removal mining from 1985-2015 at the intersections of Perry, Knot, and Breathitt counties in Kentucky. From 1985 to 2015, coal companies blasted an average of 21,000 acres of Appalachian land every year in search of coal — an area about half the size of Washington, D.C., according to a new satellite mapping tool that allows users to track mountaintop removal over the last three decades in 74 key coal-mining counties. Since the 1970s, scientists estimate that 1.5 million acres of mountainside in Appalachia have been removed for coal mining. “That is an area 18 percent larger than the state of Delaware,” Andrew Pericak, an environmental monitoring expert at Duke University, said in a statement. Pericak and colleagues at Duke worked with researchers at the nonprofit organizations SkyTruth and Appalachian Voices to create the new mapping tool. They published their findings this month in the journal PLOS One.

The scientists found that coal in the region is getting more difficult to extract. In the 1980s and 1990s, coal companies had to blast 100 square feet of land to get one ton of coal. By 2010, this had jumped to 160 square feet per ton, and by 2015, more than 300 square feet…”

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