Faith Community Statement on Mountaintop Removal Mining (2011)
Gen 1:31 “God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
As part of our prophetic witness, we take a stand against the injustice of mountaintop removal coal-mining. Mountaintop removal coal-mining is a form of mining in which the tops of mountains are destroyed using dynamite and heavy machinery to expose the seams of coal underneath. The impact on Creation, on the local economy, and on local communities is devastating.
The Appalachian communities where mountaintop removal is practiced are among the poorest in the nation. This region was poor before coal was found in the mountains, but the discovery of coal has turned into a poverty trap that has prevented the development of an adequately diversified economy. Coal mining jobs pay more than $60,000 a year, on average, and are some of the highest paying jobs in many towns throughout Appalachia. But mountaintop removal replaces workers with machines, while simultaneously destroying the mountains themselves. With the mountains is also destroyed the possibility of development by other industries, such as tourism or alternative energy. Coal production and profits are increased, while jobs are lost, health is endangered, and Creation is destroyed.
Mountaintop removal does irreversible harm to God’s Creation. After the mountains are dynamited, the debris is pushed over the side into the valleys and hollows in between the mountains. Thus far, more than 1.4 million acres of forest have been destroyed and more than 2,000 miles of headwater streams have been buried or polluted. Surface water and groundwater have been contaminated with carcinogens and heavy metals. Not all of the chemicals used and generated in the processing of coal have been studied for health effects, but of those that have, 19 are known carcinogens and 24 are linked to heart and lung damage. Cancer clusters have been occurring in towns affected by mountaintop removal, and though more research is needed, many believe that the cancer is a result of exposure to toxic chemicals used in the mining process.
The Bible affirms that what God has created is good. The psalmists praise the beauty of Creation (Psalm 24, 104, 139 and others) and, even in despair, Job acknowledges the awe-inspiring power and majesty of God in making order out of chaos (Job 38-42). As Christians, we worship a God who loved the world so much that God sent God’s Son into the world (John 1:14, 3:16) to redeem it from bondage and decay, (Romans 8: 19-21) and to secure abundant life for all of God’s children (John 10:10). The Christian Gospel calls the Church to denounce injustice while proclaiming the love of God and the coming of God’s Reign.
Mountaintop removal not only devalues and destroys God’s Creation, but has unacceptable impacts on those living in poverty, “the least of these” (Matt 25:40-45). Mountaintop removal puts nearby communities at risk from: mudslides, flooding, loss of crops, decreased property values, loss of potential tourism revenues, and increased levels of respiratory disease and cancer. By destroying Creation, mountaintop removal is permanently impoverishing the people of Appalachia. This is not the abundant life that God intends for all Creation.
As the body of Christ we are united in our opposition to mountaintop removal mining and will continue to call for an end to this destructive practice. As people of faith, we cannot stand by while Creation is destroyed and our neighbors are impoverished and exposed to health risks.
National Council of Churches USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office