The tree-sitting protest down at Alpha Natural Resources’ Bee Tree Mine along Coal River Mountain enters its second week today, and the two protesters — Catherine-Ann MacDougal and Becks Kolins — have issued an Open Letter to Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield:
We are currently halting blasting on a portion of your Bee Tree Surface mine on Coal River Mountain. Starting last Wednesday, two of us have been sitting on platforms approximately 80 feet off the ground in trees within 300 feet of active blasting on the mine. We are doing this to demand that Alpha Natural Resources stop strip mining on Coal River Mountain, and only after presenting our concerns through face-to-face meetings.
In late May, eight residents from coal mining areas of southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia, including one of us, met with you about Alpha Natural Resources’ takeover of Massey Energy. Residents discussed the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal mining, including the documented connections between mountaintop removal mining and degraded water quality, flooding, and serious public health impacts, including elevated cancer rates. In the 570,000-acre Coal River watershed, nearly a quarter of the land area is being mined or permitted to be mined in the future, including over 5,000 acres of Coal River Mountain. At the meeting, residents requested that Alpha make specific changes to reduce the impacts of the Massey operations that it has inherited.
Alpha was specifically asked to halt blasting near the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment which is located near the Bee Tree permit where we are sitting in trees. This is the only active mountaintop removal permit on Coal River Mountain, and we share residents’ concerns that the blasting on this permit is weakening the structural integrity of the impoundment. Failure of the impoundment could kill a thousand people living downstream according to Massey Energy’s figures. Within the past month, the Brushy Fork impoundment has come under increasing scrutiny, with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement issuing a 10-day notice for failure to prove that the dam was sufficiently safe from liquefaction.
Given the lack of public response and decisive action from you in regard to our request to end strip mining on Coal River Mountain, and the continued safety concerns surrounding the Brushy Fork impoundment, we see no other alternative then to take direct action. We look forward to your response.