Charleston, W.Va.—More 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.