Strip mining is employed in coal reserves where the overburden is removed in rectangular blocks in plan view called pits or strips. The pits are parallel and adjacent to each other. Strip mining is fundamentally different from contour or area mining on how the overburden is displaced, called spoil handling. In contour or area stripping, the overburden is hauled with different equipment than what digs or removes the overburden. In strip mining, the overburden is mined and moved by the same equipment: draglines or continuous excavators. The movement of overburden in strip mining is called the casting process.
The operating sequence for each pit includes drilling and blasting, followed by overburden casting, then coal removal. Some overlap exists in operational steps between pits. Draglines and continuous excavators move or displace the overburden from the active pit to the previous pit that has had the coal removed.
The primary planning mechanism used in strip mining is the range diagram, which is a cross-sectional plan of the shape of the pit in various stages of mining. The range diagram allows the dragline or continuous excavator equipment characteristics of dig depth, reach, and physical size to be placed on the geologic dimensions of depth to seams (overburden), and depth between seams (interburden). By comparing machinery specifications with dimensional characteristics of the geology, the mine designer can plan the pit width and dig depth (Fig. 6).
As the dragline or continuous excavator moves the overburden to the adjacent empty pit where the coal has been removed, the rock swells in volume. Earth or rock increases in volume, called the swell factor, when the material is removed from its in situ or in-ground state and placed into a pit or on the surface. The range diagram allows the mine planner to identify the equipment dump height required to keep the displaced overburden (spoil) from crowding the machinery and mining operations. In certain cases of mining multiple coal seams from one pit, a coal seam can provide the boundary between the prestrip and strip elevations.
In a relatively new technique that originated in 1970s to early 1980s, explosives are used to move or throw the overburden into the previous pit in a process called cast blasting. The difference in the quantity of explosives required to fragment rock in place versus fragment and cast or throw the rock across the active pit and into the previous pit is cost-effective. Many surface strip mines use explosives to move overburden in addition to the primary swing equipment (dragline or continuous excavator), displacing up to 35% of the overburden by cast blasting. When cast blasting is used, the dragline may excavate from the spoil side of the pit, sitting on the leveled, blasted overburden.
Surface mine design principles emanate from the operational characteristics of surface mining, which are drilling and blasting, spoil handling, coal removal, and haulage. Except in a few circumstances, overburden in surface mining requires the rock to be fractured by explosives to allow it to be excavated. The goal of drill and blast design is to optimize rock fracturing, which optimizes digging productivity. Fracturing is optimized by using the correct amount of explosive per cubic yard of overburden employed in the drill hole spacing in plan view. The amount of explosive in weight per cubic yard of overburden is called the powder factor. Drill and blast design is accomplished by empirical methods and by experience. The drill hole layout and powder factor change when cast blasting is utilized.
Spoil handling design is of critical importance, as this function is usually the most expensive cost element in surface mining. When the surface mining method utilizes trucks, spoil handling is designed to minimize the overall haul distance for logical units of spoil volume, which may be driven by pit layout, topography, or area stripping requirements. Mine plan alternatives are evaluated to minimize the distance that spoil volumes are moved from the beginning centroid of mass to the ending centroid of mass. Spoil handling design goals for strip mining surface methods that utilize draglines and continuous excavators also include the minimization of spoil haulage distance. For the dragline, the average swing angle is identified by evaluating alternative mine plan layouts. The goal is to minimize the swing angle, which maximizes productivity.
The goals of coal removal and haulage design in surface mining include minimizing the distance coal is hauled from pits to surface processing and loadout facilities in near term years, locating haul road ramps out of the pits to minimize interference with overburden removal, and engaging excavation practices and equipment that minimize coal dilution by mining noncoal rock floor.
Surface mining has two design parameters that affect mine cost, which are minimizing rehandle and maximizing pit recovery. Rehandle occurs when overburden is handled twice and sometimes multiple times during excavation and spoil placement. Having 0% rehandle of the original inplace overburden is not achievable because of inherent design requirements of surface mining such as ramps into the pit and mining conditions such as sloughing ground that covers the coal. Simulating alternative mine plans and anticipating where overburden will be placed can minimize rehandle. Rehandle can more than double the cost of mining portions of the overburden.
The goal of coal pit recovery is to obtain as close to 100% as possible. One method to maximize pit recovery is to minimize drill and blast damage to the top of the coal. Drill and blast damage is reduced by stopping the drill holes from touching the coal seam or by placing nonexplosive material in each drill hole, called stemming. Pit recovery is also maximized by matching the pit width with the characteristics of the machinery used to extract the coal. Again, the range diagram as a planning tool is used in this evaluation.
Strip mining process is most suitable for fairly flat shallow single-seam coal, lignite and other bedded deposits. The mineral layer is covered by an even thickness of overburden composed of soft topsoil and weathered rocks in succession. The soft and unconsolidated overburden can be stripped and removed either by dragline or shovel to expose a coal seam and certain metallic ores. The overburden might need drilling at grid spacing of 7.5 7.5 to 1515m depending on its hardness and thickness. The drill holes are charged with explosives and blasted. Drilling and blasting continues in advance with the movements of dragline and shovel.
Surface soil is often stripped separately and dumped as stockpile. The excavators either dispose of the overburden to a suitable location for land reclamation or store the waste material for future backfill after the coal/minerals are removed. The topsoil from the stockpile is spread back onto the reclaimed surface of the stripped mine. The new topsoil is often protected by seeding or planting grass or trees on the fertilized restored surface. The coal/metallic ore is usually removed by an exclusive separate operation. It uses smaller drill capable of drilling entire thickness of the seam or at suitable bench height if necessary. The blast hole spacing must be closer than that of the overburden rocks. The process involves charging with ANFO (ammonium nitrate mixed with diesel fuel oil) explosive and light blasting. This will avoid pulverization of coal. The broken coal or minerals are removed by shovel or front-end loader, crushed if required, screened to various size fractions and transported to beneficiation plant. The high wall of the mine opening is stable at 3 in 1 i.e. around 20 from vertical. The lumpy stockpile heap of overburden waste is stable at 30-35 for shale and 35-45 for limestones and sandstones. All measurements are with respect to the horizontal surface. The total cycle of ore and waste mining is given in Fig. 11.2.
In case of a deep-seated bedded deposit within permissible stripping ratio the overburden is removed by opening successive and progressive benches. It continues till sufficient area over the ore is exposed. The multiple seam mining is done by operating first pair of overburden and coal bed at a time and followed by second and third pairs in sequence. Finally, the total overburden rocks, stockpiled around the mine opening, are backfilled to the abandoned mine. The excavated land is reclaimed for future use.
The strip mining process is suitable for fairly flat, shallow, single-seam coal, lignite, and other bedded deposits. The mineral layer is covered by an even thickness of overburden composed of soft top soil and weathered rocks in succession. The soft and unconsolidated overburden can be stripped and removed by dragline or shovel to expose a coal seam and metallic ore. The overburden might need drilling at grid spacings of 7.5m7.5m15m15m depending on its hardness and thickness. The drill holes are charged with explosives and blasted. Production drilling and blasting continue in advance with the movement of dragline/shovel.
The surface soil is often stripped separately, removed, and dumped as stockpile. The excavators either dispose of the overburden to a suitable location for land reclamation or store the waste material for future backfill after the coal/minerals are removed. The top soil from the stockpile is spread back onto the reclaimed surface of the stripped mine. The new top soil is often protected by seeding or planting grass or trees on the fertilized restored surface. The coal/metallic ore is usually removed by an exclusive separate operation. It uses smaller drills capable of drilling entire thicknesses of the seam or at suitable bench height if necessary. The blast hole spacing must be closer than that of the overburden rocks. The process involves charging with ANFO explosive and light blasting. This will avoid pulverization of the coal. The broken coal or minerals are removed by shovel or front-end loader, crushed if required, screened to various size fractions, and transported to the beneficiation plant. The high wall of the mine opening is stable at 3 in 1, i.e., around 20degrees from vertical. The lumpy stockpile heap of overburden waste is stable at 3035degrees for shale and 3545degrees for limestones and sandstones. All measurements are with respect to the horizontal surface. The total cycle of ore and waste mining is given in Fig.12.2.
The overburden is removed by opening successive and progressive benches in the case of deep-seated bedded deposit within a permissible stripping ratio. It continues until sufficient area over the ore is exposed. Multiple seam mining is done by operating a first pair of overburden and coal beds, followed by second and third pairs in sequence. Finally, the total overburden rocks, stockpiled around the mine opening, is backfilled to reclaim the abandoned excavation.
Mining activities and, in particular, strip mining of metal ores produce vast quantities of residues called mine spoils and mine tailings that may contain significant concentrations of metals (Fig. 14.1). Mine spoils or overburden consists of surface materials that do not contain the metal(s) of interest and that are therefore stockpiled at the surface, often resembling large mesas. Mine tailings, in contrast, are the crushed mineral rock that has been processed to release the metal of interest. These wastes are often pumped as a slurry in lifts into valleys or depressions. Mine tailings can be tens of meters deep due to successive depositions of lifts. Thus these residues, which are usually composed of unweathered primary minerals, produce environments that are physically and chemically unstable (fast weathering) and prone to wind and water erosion. Strip mining for copper, for example, produces large quantities of tailings that often contain concentrations of ~100 to <10,000mgkg1 of such metals as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. Similarly, iron pyrites (FeS2), which are often associated with copper, silver, and lead ores, can have a devastating impact on the aquatic environment because their oxidation releases sulfuric acid into the environment (Fig. 14.2). The overall reaction is described as follows:
However, in an acid stream (pH<3), fresh pyrite can react in a cascading effect with soluble ferric iron (Fe3+), creating even more acidity (Stumm and Morgan, 1996). The reaction rate is controlled by the oxidation of Fe2+ to Fe3+ in the presence of O2, and results in lowering the pH of the environment. This process can also occur biologically via autotrophic bacteria which thrive at pH 23 (see Chapter 5).
Mining operations that treat or leach ores and/or store acid chemicals for the extraction of metals can generate large volumes of acidic metal-containing wastewaters and/or leachates. For example, low-grade Cu ore can be extracted by means of sulfuric acid heap leaching. In this process, crushed Cu ore is continuously leached with sulfuric acid until most of the Cu is solubilized due to both the high acidity and formation of Cu-sulfate complexes. Spent acid solutions, usually contaminated with other metals, must be neutralized and stored in lagoons or impoundments. Gold mining also produces vast quantities of spent ores and liquid process streams that usually contain residual levels of cyanide ion (CN) complexes. Metalcyanide complexes are usually either stable in the soil environment or biologically degraded into nontoxic forms of N (see Chapter 5). However, when released into aquatic systems, unstable complexes of cyanide can be extremely toxic to fish if free cyanide is produced.
Minerals are typically excavated by underground mining, strip mining, or open-pit mining. The selection of the mine design is dictated by the physical structure and value of the ore body and by the characteristics of the adjacent geological materials. Although open-pit mines and underground mines are the two most common mining strategies, placer mining and solution mining also have been used for mineral extraction. Placer mining involves excavation of river or stream sediments and the separation of valuable minerals by gravity, selective flotation, or by chemical extraction. Most solution mining is by heap leaching, in which the extractant solution is trickled over broken ore on the surface or in underground workings; less common is injection into underground aquifers. The consequence of the excavation of open pits and other mining-related disturbances is that sulfide minerals previously isolated from the atmosphere are exposed to oxygen. Oxidation of sulfide minerals ensues.
Minerals are typically excavated by underground mining, strip mining, or open-pit mining. The selection of the mining technique is dictated by the physical structure, location, and grade or value of the ore body and by the characteristics of the adjacent geological materials. Although open-pit mining and underground mining are the two most common mining techniques, placer mining and solution mining also have been used for mineral extraction. Placer mining involves excavation of river or stream sediments and separation of valuable minerals by gravity, by selective flotation, or by chemical extraction. Most solution mining is by heap leaching in which the extractant solution is trickled over broken ore on the surface or in underground workings; less common is injection into underground geological formations. The consequence of the excavation of open-pits and other mining-related disturbances is that sulfide minerals previously isolated from the atmosphere are exposed to oxygen. The oxidation of sulfide minerals ensues.
Coal is primarily obtained by surface mining (sometimes called strip mining, but not by the industry) and underground mining. There are two main sources of power plant coal in the United States: (1) Pennsylvanian-age coals in eastern basins like the Appalachian, Illinois, and Black Warrior, and (2) Paleocene-age coals in western states such as Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana. The eastern coals tend to be higher in grade, ranging from bituminous to anthracite, but also tend to be higher in sulfur. Some of the eastern coal seams are considered metallurgical coals suitable for steelmaking, and can command a higher price than the run-of-the-mine coal that is used in power plants. Western coals are lower grade, ranging from lignite to subbituminous, but are also lower in sulfur. These lower-grade coals provide less Btu value per ton, so more fuel is needed per megawatt compared to eastern coals, but the reduced sulfur content also makes them economical.
Because of their increasing efficiency with larger sizes, the land footprint of a coal power plant can be quite substantial. There typically needs to be sufficient space to unload and store significant amounts of coal feedstock. Coal is often processed at the mine to create uniform-size particles (comminution), remove noncombustible minerals, and provide other conditioning to improve performance. Increasing numbers of power plants are using this so-called refined coal, but if the precombustion cleaning, comminution and conditioning has to be done at the power plant site, this requires even more land. Large cooling towers might be necessary for plant operations, and sufficient land area for gathering and handling the postcombustion products is also needed. Many coal power plants are located along waterways or large rivers like the Ohio to facilitate the delivery of coal via barges or railroads. Some large surface coal mines, such as Wyodak near Gillette in eastern Wyoming have a power plant on-site to utilize the coal at the mine and sell electricity directly into the national grid.
The following classification, of land disturbance due to coal mining, is adapted from a more general and comprehensive classification of Motorina and Ovchinnikov (1975) and Bauer and Weinitschke (1973). The classifications of Motorina and Ovchinnikov (1975) include one based on relief features and another on overburden characteristics. Although designed for the USSR, they can be adapted for other countries.
Land disturbed by surface mining (strip-mining and open-pit mining).1.1.Open-pit mining disturbance.1.1.1Terraced excavations usually over 30 m deep; deposit usually dipped at >30; overburden stored externally (Fig. 2.1A).1.1.2Terraced excavations over 10 m deep; deposit usually 830; most over-burden stored externally (Fig. 2.1B).1.1.3Terraced excavations usually 1030 m deep with deposit dipped at 8; some internal storage of overburden (Fig. 2.1C).1.2.Strip-mining disturbance.1.2.1Area strip-mining of horizontal deposits relatively near the surface (Fig. 2.1D).1.2.2Contour strip-mining of horizontal or steeply dipped deposits in mountainous regions (Fig. 2.1E).
Open-pit mining disturbance.1.1.1Terraced excavations usually over 30 m deep; deposit usually dipped at >30; overburden stored externally (Fig. 2.1A).1.1.2Terraced excavations over 10 m deep; deposit usually 830; most over-burden stored externally (Fig. 2.1B).1.1.3Terraced excavations usually 1030 m deep with deposit dipped at 8; some internal storage of overburden (Fig. 2.1C).
Strip-mining disturbance.1.2.1Area strip-mining of horizontal deposits relatively near the surface (Fig. 2.1D).1.2.2Contour strip-mining of horizontal or steeply dipped deposits in mountainous regions (Fig. 2.1E).
Land disturbed by underground (deep) mining.2.1.Land subsidence.2.1.1Canyon subsidence caused by working medium or thick seams that dip steeply (>45).2.1.2Terraced subsidence resulting from the working of seams that show 2745 dipping and where the land surface slopes.2.1.3Bowl or cirque-type subsidence caused by the working of medium or thick seams dipping up to 18.104.22.168Trough-type subsidence resulting from mining low and medium thickness, horizontal or slightly inclined seams; appear like natural depressions.2.2.Surface waste deposits associated with pitheads.2.2.1Plateau-shaped tips resulting from single- or multi-level tipping from road or rail transport.2.2.2Crest-shaped tips resulting from cableway dumping.2.2.3Conical tips resulting from skip or tip-wagon dumping.
Land subsidence.2.1.1Canyon subsidence caused by working medium or thick seams that dip steeply (>45).2.1.2Terraced subsidence resulting from the working of seams that show 2745 dipping and where the land surface slopes.2.1.3Bowl or cirque-type subsidence caused by the working of medium or thick seams dipping up to 22.214.171.124Trough-type subsidence resulting from mining low and medium thickness, horizontal or slightly inclined seams; appear like natural depressions.
Surface waste deposits associated with pitheads.2.2.1Plateau-shaped tips resulting from single- or multi-level tipping from road or rail transport.2.2.2Crest-shaped tips resulting from cableway dumping.2.2.3Conical tips resulting from skip or tip-wagon dumping.
Keleberda and Danko (1975) studied the Dneprov spoil heap that resulted from the strip mining of the Chasov Yar refractory clays (Donetsk region). The spoils were loamy sands. This spoil heap was recultivated with sweetclover (Melilotus volgicus) as a green manure plant. Uncultivated plots served as controls. It was found that invertase, urease, and catalase activities and respiration (CO2 evolution), like humus and total N contents, increased significantly in the 0-5- and 10-20-cm layers of the recultivated spoil heap as compared with the control plots. Invertase activity of the 20-30-cm layer was also higher in the sweetclover plots than in the controls (Keleberda, 1976), and proteinase activity also increased in the top layer of the sweetclover plots (Keleberda, 1977).
Afforestation of some spoil plots in this area was performed with black locust and oleaster It has been established (Keleberda, 1978) that after 11 years the spoil was transformed into a primitive soil, characterised by increased humus and N contents and invertase, urease, and proteinase activities in its 0-20-cm layer as compared with the uncultivated control plot (Table31).
In the same area, Keleberda (1979), Danko et al. (1980), and Keleberda and Drugov (1984) have also studied the influence of black locust on the development of other tree species: green ash (Fraxinus viridis), small-leaf linden (Tilia cordata), and elm (Ulmus pinnato-ramosa). When these species were planted in rows having contact with locust, they developed better, even in the first years of their plantation, than the plants having no contact with locust. Their better development, which became very evident 9 years after their planting, was accompanied by increased total N and chlorophyll contents in their leaves and by increased invertase, urease, and proteinase activities (Table32); humus levels; amounts of total and hydrolysable N; and mobile P and K contents of their soils (especially in the 0-5-cm layer).
Keleberda and Drugov (1984) also described another experiment, in which black alder (Alnus glutinosa) was used as a symbiotic N2-fixing plant instead of black locust, whereas weeping birch (Betula verrucosa) served as the test tree. The results obtained in the seventh year of the black alder and weeping birch plantations were similar to those registered in the experiment with black locust and green ash, small-leaf linden, or elm.
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By: Darlene Creamer11th September 2020 In a recent interview with Sunday Times, Hermione Cronje, who heads the National Prosecuting Authoritys Investigating Directorate, said that the first charges against high-profile individuals implicated in State capture should be made in September, which is Spring in South Africa. These charges...
Strip mining is a type of surface mining which involves the removal of a thin layer of material known as an overburden to access buried deposits of useful minerals. This type of mining is only effective in areas where mineral deposits are very close to the surface, making it feasible to quickly and easily remove the overburden to get to them. Classically, strip mining is used to mine tar sand and coal. This technique is also referred to as open cast, open cut, or stripping.
In this technique, the first step is the removal of trees, shrubs, and structures on the area to be mined, a process which is usually accomplished with heavy duty bulldozers. Next, holes are drilled for the placement of explosives, which will loosen the overburden so that it can be removed by earthmoving equipment. Some of the largest industrial equipment in the world is utilized in strip mining, with the overburden being piled next to the site or hauled away for disposal, depending on how the mine is being handled. Once exposed, the minerals can be extracted.
In many cases, mining operations work a little like mowing the lawn: one row at a time. When this technique is used, mined strips are used to hold the removed overburden from the neighboring row, so that it does not have to be hauled off site. This technique also makes it easier to control stability and conditions at the mine, as only a small segment is being actively worked at any given time.
Area strip mining is designed for relatively flat areas of ground which can be worked quickly and easily. The main concern in flat areas tends to be containment and proper disposal of overburden, to keep the site under control. In contour strip mining, strips are dug out around the contours of a mountain, and miners must be more careful to avoid collapses and other problems which can cause injuries or deaths.
As one might imagine from the description, strip mining can be extremely disruptive. The unwanted overburden often consists of nutrient rich topsoil which may have been built up over centuries, and when the overburden is carelessly disposed of, this constitutes an enormous waste. Even when the overburden is replaced, it can take decades or longer for plant and animal life in the area to recover. Pollution can also become an issue, depending on what is being mined and whether it is being processed on site.
Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.
Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.
I enjoyed your article on strip mining. I have a new release on Amazon that highlights the extents families will go to protect their land from strip mining that kinda goes hand i hand with your article. "Murder Seen through the Eyes of a Child" is a story about three young boys growing up and getting into all kinds of mischief as they watch and witness a terrible tragedy unfold. They live in a time period when corruption is rampant in law enforcement and corporations. These individuals will resort to almost anything to fatten their banks accounts even if that means destroying people and the land they own to achieve their goals. This book runs the complete gambit of emotions. You will find yourself laughing and then rooting for the underdog as you feel drawn to the Mountain people.
"Murder Seen through the Eyes of a Child" is a story about three young boys growing up and getting into all kinds of mischief as they watch and witness a terrible tragedy unfold. They live in a time period when corruption is rampant in law enforcement and corporations. These individuals will resort to almost anything to fatten their banks accounts even if that means destroying people and the land they own to achieve their goals. This book runs the complete gambit of emotions. You will find yourself laughing and then rooting for the underdog as you feel drawn to the Mountain people.
"Murder Seen through the Eyes of a Child" is a story about three young boys growing up and getting into all kinds of mischief as they watch and witness a terrible tragedy unfold. They live in a time period when corruption is rampant in law enforcement and corporations. These individuals will resort to almost anything to fatten their banks accounts even if that means destroying people and the land they own to achieve their goals. This book runs the complete gambit of emotions. You will find yourself laughing and then rooting for the underdog as you feel drawn to the Mountain people.
@ 2:to satisfy the basic needs required for a human to live in this day to day life like all metal related objects starting from automobiles, minerals for chemical purpose etc., we need the [email protected] 5: yes, you are right. we are stupid, but think without these resources is it possible to survive? i would say use the resources but to the required level considering all safety measures!
Colossal earth-moving machines became symbols in the 1960s-1970s environmental battles over surface coal mining, also known as strip mining. These machines some capable of scooping two-to-three Greyhound bus-size equivalents of earth with each bite laid waste to tens of thousands of acres as they uncovered near-surface coal to feed electric power plants. In 1972-73, a trio of these machines, then chewing through southeastern Ohio, became involved in a controversial proposal: to cross, and temporarily shut down, a major interstate highway to get to the coal on the other side. The event became a symbolic and actual line-in-the-sand confrontation between those opposed to strip mining and those who saw it as vital for energy, jobs, and local economies. The February 1973 issue of Smithsonian magazine ran a dramatic shot of The GEM of Egypt in operation in the Egypt Valley of Ohio, just north of I-70, as the magazine featured a story on the need for energy vs. strip mining. Note size of the shovels bucket relative to the vehicles on the road below. Photo, Arthur Sirdofsky.
There were three of the giant machines at issue: The Tiger, The Mountaineer, and The GEM of Egypt. All three were then in the service of the Hanna Coal Company, which by 1970, had been strip mining in Ohio for decades and was then a division of the much larger Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company, later known as Consol, itself then owned by Continental Oil. More on Hanna/Consol and the big machines in a moment, first some background on Ohios coal.
Various coalfields in the tri-state OH-PA-WV area are shown in color, overlaying county boundaries a region where coal has been mined for decades in the Appalachian Coal Basin.Coal is found in 32 counties in Ohio, though primarily in the southeastern part of the state which is located on the northwestern edge of the Appalachian Coal Basin, one of the largest coalfields in the U.S.
Coal has been mined in Ohio since the early 1800s, initially with crude mining techniques working surface outcroppings, to more sophisticated mechanized technologies that evolved following WWI and WWII. Most of the mining in Ohio through the 1930s was in deep mines or shaft mines that bore into mountainsides. Surface mining existed as well, but it wasnt until the big shovels came on in the 1940s and 1950s that strip mining began to take a larger portion of the states annual coal production.
Generally it is economic to strip mine when there is a 20:1 ratio of overburden-to-coal seam, meaning, for example that a three-foot coal seam can be surface mined economically when the overburden is up to 60 feet. However, at some surface mines in Ohio, highwalls of up to 200 feet high remain where five-foot-coal seams have been extracted. And in these cases, the size and power of the giant shovels and draglines used in those areas made that level of extraction possible.
The smallest of Hanna Coal Companys earth movers involved in the I-70 controversy, The Tiger, was among the companys first big shovels, built in the early 1940s. But even for that small shovel, mining historians noted that it took about 63 trainloads to ship its parts from Marion, Ohio to Hannas Georgetown coal complex south of Cadiz, Ohio in Harrison County, where it was assembled. The shipping and assembly of the shovel began in 1943, and by the following year, The Tiger was ready to begin digging. At the time, it was considered to be the worlds largest shovel, used to help mine coal for the steel mills during WWII. The photo below shows a portion of The Tiger in 1957 near Cadiz, Ohio. The Tiger shown during a 1950s field tour. This shovel first began its work in Harrison County, Ohio in 1944, moving on to other coal fields in Ohio through the 1970s.
The Hanna Coal Company, meanwhile, was quite an Ohio industrial power, evolved initially from Rhodes & Co., a firm in the 1840s that mined coal in Ohios Mahoning Valley area. Hanna expanded into iron ore mining in the Lake Superior region in the mid-1860s, establishing roots in the steel industry. Some years later, after considerable growth over the decades, and various business transactions, stock trades, mergers, and restructurings, including the sale of its iron and steel interests, Hanna, by 1945-46, became part of what was then called the Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company (Pitt-Consol). In this deal, Hanna brought to Consol its eastern Ohio coal properties, which then accounted for about 20 percent of Ohios production. A few years later, Pitt-Consol acquired more Hanna coal lands in Ohios Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson counties. But Hanna, as a Consolidation company, continued to operate in these areas under its name. Undated photo (probably circa 1950s) of a smaller Bucyrus-Erie electric shovel loading a 55-ton Euclid truck at one of Hanna's coal mines. The loaded coal would then go to Hannas Georgetown prep plant for cleaning and shipping.
Hanna became one of the major players in the Eastern and Southeastern Ohio coalfields for many years. By the 1950s at Duncanwood, Ohio, near Cadiz in Harrison County, Hanna had a complex of offices and shop buildings, and also a major coal processing center at its giant Georgetown complex of coal mines, tipples, and railroads. The companys coal cleaning operations there, which opened in 1951, was then one of the largest preparation plants in the world, and could process 1,275 tons/hour which was quite formidable in the 1950s. Hanna was also one of the first to use a coal slurry pipeline to transport coal over a long distance. In 1956 the company built a 10-inch, 108-mile-long pipeline that linked the Hannas Georgetown prep plant near Cadiz with the Cleveland Electric Companys Eastlake Generating Station in Cleveland. Crushed coal was mixed with water at a Hanna plant and the slurry mixture then pumped through the line to Cleveland. Between 1957 and 1963, this pipeline supplied about six million tons of coal to Cleveland Electric.
Headlines from July 1966 when Hanna made a big investment in a nearby West Virginia deep mine.Hanna made front-page news whenever it was inovled in a new coal investment. On June 10, 1966, for example, the company made headlines in the Steubenville Herald-Star of Steubenville, Ohio, for its plans at the Shoemaker Mine in the nearby West Virginia panhandle south of Wheeling. Just across the Ohio River there, at Benwood, West Virginia, a deep mine and related facilities were being planned. In the newspaper, an aerial photo on the front page showed the complex of coal haulage roads and preparation facilities to service the deep mine, which also included rail transport from the mine, conveyor system, and coal crushing and coal washing.
At its deep mine locations, especially in earlier years, Hanna built company housing for its miners, such as those built for workers at the Dunglen mine at Newtown, Ohio. It also operated company stores those invoked generally by the Tennessee Ernie Ford song, Sixteen Tons. Two of Hannas stores were those named Dillonvale and Lafferty, and another one was located at Willow Grove, Ohio. First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had visited Hannas Willow Grove deep mine in April 1935. Below is an enlarged map of several Ohio counties where Hanna Coal Company mines and machines exploited the Pittsburgh No. 8 Coalfield for many years.
Map showing the Pittsburgh No. 8 Coalfield, running beneath Southeastern Ohio counties where Hanna Coal Co and others operated strip and deep mines and other facilities for decades. Source: CoalCampUSA.com
Hannas Ohio strip mining, meanwhile, was aided through the 1950s by another of the big machines, The Mountaineer, built by the Marion Co. The Mountaineer was among the first of the big super strippers. This colossus was also assembled in pieces, near Cadiz, Ohio, a build that began in June 1955. The big shovel didnt start digging until January 30, 1956. The Mountaineer had a 65-cubic-yard dipper, stood 16 stories tall, with a 150 foot tall boom. Its shovel could hold a 100-ton payload. The Mountaineer was the first shovel to have a built-in elevator for the crew to reach the operating controls, in this case, located in dual cabs at the front of the machine, one on each side. The Mountaineer shovel, from a Life magazine photo in the 1950s, shows the colossal size of this earth mover relative to nearby vehicles, locomotive, and group of workmen.
The GEM of Egypt (GEM, an acronym for Giant Earth Mover or Giant Excavating Machine), the largest of the three shovels in Hannas employ, went into service in January 1967 (There was also a fourth giant shovel that Hanna used, The Silver Spade, sometimes called the sister to The Gem of Egypt, also used in Ohio, but not involved in the I-70 crossing. The Spade in 1965 had worked at Hannas Georgetown Mine near Cadiz, among other places, active through 2008). The Gem of Egypt was 20 stories tall and weighed 7,000 tons. It had a 170-foot boom and a 130 cubic yard bucket. It first went to work at the opening of the Egypt Valley mine in January 1967. Photo of The Gem of Egypt shovel, believed to be around the time it began operating in the Egypt Valley of Ohio in the late 1960s. Note the size of the machine relative to the people standing near its shovel and around its base.
Hanna invited the public to attend the grand opening of the Egypt Valley Mine in late January 1967. An estimated 25,000 people traveled to the site, many from Ohio cities such as Cleveland, Akron, and Canton, as well as those from neighboring states. The centerpiece of the tour was the colossal GEM of Egypt, which towered over the visitors cars parked near it that day. The GEM, in fact, was capable of holding the equivalent of at least two Greyhound buses in its bucket. The giant earth mover was slated to operate in Hannas 96,000-acre Egypt Valley surface mine in Belmont County. Production there was expected to average 20,000 tons a day until the vein ran out, which the company then forecast to last for the next 30 to 40 years. January 1967 open house at Hanna Coal Cos Egypt Valley surface mine, unveiling the GEM of Egypt shovel.
Hanna also used the 1967 mine-opening event to public relations advantage, offering hand-out literature for the public that touted the virtues of reclamation and post-mining uses, some of which bordered on the far-fetched, such as suggesting spoil piles could be used for ski slopes. The reality was that this mine, and others that had preceded it, were ripping through farmland, and despite laws on the books, leaving in their wake, highwalls, spoil piles, acid mine drainage, damaged homes, silted streams and polluted water supplies.
The state of Ohio has not had a happy environmental history with strip mining; and to this day, its ravages are still taking a toll. Although Ohio was one of the earliest states to adopt a strip mining law in 1947-48, that law had very little impact in terms of environmental protection or land reclamation. As documented in Chad Montries book, To Save The Land and People, Ohio farmers were among the first to rail against the ravages of strip mining.We believe that strip mining is a menace to agriculture and the very life of our county, unless some control measure is taken. -Morgan County Grange, 1947 Farm groups such as the Grange and Farm Bureau, concerned about losing good farmland to the strippers, helped pass the Ohio law in 1947. Wrote one member of the Morgan County Grange in 1947 in support of Ohios first strip mine law: We believe that strip mining is a menace to agriculture and the very life of our county, unless some control measure is taken. A member of the Western Tuscarawas Game Association, also supporting the legislation that became law, noted: Strip mines must level their spoil banks and the land put in a tillable condition. But despite the 1947 law, that wasnt happening, and didnt happen. Essentially, there was no reclamation.
1940 post card from the Cadiz News Agency, with four photos by E.C. Kropp Co., showing coal mining scenes near Cadiz, Ohio, Harrison County with caption: Scenes From Cadiz, Ohio. Where They Destroy Good Farms to Get The Coal. Some stripping shovels at that time were mounted on rails and/or temporary rail lines & hopper cars serviced the mining area.
By 1949, the Grange and Farm Bureau were back in the legislature seeking strengthening amendments to the law. Still, little changed. In 1953, the Conservation Committee of the Ohio Grange noted that land in the strip mining areas of Ohio [is] left in such condition that it is practically worthless. By 1965, the Grange and Farm Bureau again lobbied the Ohio General Assembly for tougher strip mine regulations, but only minor changes resulted.Land in the strip mining areas of Ohio [is] left in such condition that it is practically worthless. -Ohio Grange, 1953 Some of the adopted language now called on coal operators to grade spoil banks so as to reduce the peaks thereof to a gently rolling, sloping or terraced topography, as may be appropriate, which grading shall be done in such as way as will minimize erosion due to rainfall, [and] break up long uninterrupted slopes. Large boulders were also to be removed and acid mine drainage and stream siltation on adjacent lands prevented, if possible. Needless to say, such language wasnt exactly iron clad. Farm organizations by then were filing reports of strip mine siltation and clay washing onto adjacent lands in depths of up to two feet. They called on legislators to deny strippers their license when they damaged neighboring lands. But that didnt happen either. Further reform wouldnt come until 1972, covered later below.
During the late 1960s, meanwhile, The GEM of Egypt was chewing through Ohio farm country at a rate of 200 tons per bite, continuing to work through the Egypt Valley of Harrison and Belmont counties where Hanna held thousands of acres of land with strippable coal. The GEM gradually worked its way to within sight of the interstate highway, I-70, as it dug through the hills just north of the highway. Motorists traveling on I-70 would sometimes stop to marvel at the giant shovel while it did its handwork. The Gem of Egypt working its way through the Egypt Valley strip mine of Ohio in the late 1960s early 1970s. The giant machine is removing the earth over the coal seam on the right, and then, swinging its boom and loaded shovel left, depositing the overburden on the spoil banks. A tiny vehicle mid-photo appears to be riding on a road that is the unearthed coal seam. At right, atop the hillside being mined, is a line of powdered-white blasting holes where dynamite will be used to loosen the overburden the giant shovel will continue to remove.
Hanna, at this point, had new plans for The Gem of Egypt. Hanna wanted to use the machine ten miles south, to begin stripping coal lands near Barnesville, in Belmont County. Barnesville then had a population of 4,300. But in order to move the big machine to that location, it would have to cross, and temporarily shut down, a major interstate highway, I-70. While Hanna and other coal companies had worked their will with local and state roads sometimes taking them over completely for hauling coal, or taking them out of service a federal interstate highway was in something of a different league. And this particular east-west segment running between Wheeling, West Virginia and Columbus, Ohio would become heavily traveled.
In the 1950s and 1960s, as President Dwight D. Eisenhowers Interstate Highway system was taking form across the U.S., one of the segments to be built in Ohio was the East-West running Interstate I-70. This highway would cut across Southeastern Ohios coalfields, including counties in the vicinity where Hanna and others were operating. Hanna, in fact, had acquired some 12,000 to 13,000 acres of coal lands (more??) in the area prior to the laying of the I-70 route. So when the Federal and state governments started planning for I-70, Hanna was one of the parties at the table and by that time Hanna was part of Consolidated Coal Co., or Consol.
Map showing I-70 running through a portion of S. E. Ohio near the town of Barnesville, where strip mining was headed in 1973.In the 1960s, the State of Ohio attempted to negotiate with Hanna/Consol for the necessary right-of-way for that part of I-70 which divided the Egypt Valley coalfield.
Consol claimed $8-to-$10 million in damages for the dividing of its coal field by the highway. However Ohio agreed to construct two underpasses at I-70 to permit Consols coal trucks to travel under the highway. The state also agreed to permit Consol to cross over the surface of the I-70 highway with mining equipment 10 times during a period of 40 years. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation also approved this agreement in early September 1964.
By 1968, Interstate highway I-70 was built, with about 27 miles traversing Belmont County, bisecting the coal lands held by Hanna/Consol. During this time, Hannas Gem of Egypt and the strip mining of the Egypt Valley site had proceeded, moving closer and closer to the Interstate.
Through 1967, the Ohio farm groups continued to seek stricter strip mine enforcement in the state legislature, though with little success. By this time, however, new public environmental awareness was rising across the nation and in Ohio, where the Cuyahoga River had caught on fire from pollution in June 1969, raising the states environmental profile. New activists were entering the strip mine fight there as well, and throughout the region. A 1970 strip mining symposium held in Cadiz, Ohio drew 400 attendees, including many students, but with sponsors such as the Ohio Conservation Foundation, state chapter of the Sierra Club, the Ohio Audubon Council, and others. By late December 1970, some local members of the United Steelworkers Union and the Belmont County AFL-CIO, along with others from Ohio State Universitys Marion extension campus, formed an organization called Citizens Concerned About Strip Mining. This group planned to lobby the Ohio legislature for strip mine reforms, and in the summer of 1971, sponsored a meeting that drew prominent strip mining opponents from nearby states, including a regional representative of the Sierra Club.
Title screen for The Ravaged Earth TV program pro-duced by WKYC-TV, Cleveland, 1969. Click for film.In Ohio and across the nation during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the media began to play an important role in bringing environmental issues to the attention of the general public.
In Cleveland, a small group of TV producers and writers at NBCs WKYC-TV station, produced a 1969 documentary that focused in part on strip mining in Ohios Perry County and the environmental ruin it was causing there. The film was part of WKYCs Montage series of documentary programs on local and regional subjects that aired in Cleveland from 1965 to 1978. The title of the strip mine program was The Ravaged Earth. Linda Sugarman, one of the associate producers at the time, wrote a July 31, 1969 memo, statement of need, and description of the planned program, to be broadcast in late September 1969:
For twenty five years giant steamshovels have been clawing their way across the beautiful hills of Southern Ohio, unearthing shallow veins of coal and leaving a scene of utter devastation. The strip mines, which are dug instead of deep mines when the coal is close to the surface, bring about in their wake a stark, and almost worthless wasteland of steep spoil banks whose overturned earth is so acidic weeds can barely grow on it. Rivers and streams become red with sulfuric acid pollution. Public heath hazards are created by uncontrolled clouds of coal dust and carbon monoxide fumes. Property damage, caused by blasting goes uncompensated. Many of the mining interests seem to be in almost total disregard of the local laws, property rights, safety, and health of the nearby residents.
Although a few of the coal companies attempt to renew and reclaim the land they have strip mined, the ones who have made so much damage seem to be able to continue their activities without much opposition. Since the coal companies bring in most of the income in many of these counties, most public officials seem hesitant to prosecute or even confront them. Residents of the area who depend directly or indirectly upon the mines also seem hesitant to complain about the coal companies actions
Montage will talk to these conservationists, as well as local citizens, elected officials, and mine representatives. The film will also show the damaged as well as the reclaimed areas of Southern Ohio.
Screen shot from The Ravaged Earth of light green automobile (center) moving through unreclaimed strip-mined area with remaining highwall, spoil debris, and rugged terrain.The program included extensive footage of strip-mined lands, eroded hillsides, miles of highwalls, polluted run-off, closed and detoured local roads, and more (especially in Perry County, Ohio). Some mining operations of the Ohio Power Company were shown, featuring its gigantic dragline, Big Muskie. A Peabody Coal Co. roadside billboard was also shown with its boastful Operation Green Earth headline and wildlife mural, as the camera slowly panned across an adjacent and continuous view of poorly-reclaimed spoil piles and strip-mined lands. One official interviewed during the program explained that problems such as the acidic run-off and lack of successful reclamation, resulted from turning the land upside down and not saving and segregating topsoil during the mining process so it could be used in reclamation. Other officials were also interviewed during the program from Perry County Planning Commissioner, James Brown, to former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall.
Stewart Udall, as he appeared in the 1969 TV report, The Ravaged Earth.Of course, the whole history of coal mining in this country is a rather sad story, of lack of any control or regulation And lack of any conscience on the part of the industry, until very recently. And as someone said, in those parts of the country that were fortunate to have coal, when you look at the long haul, coal has been a curse. [here Udall may have been referring to Harry Caudill].
Coal as an extractive industry, like all extractive industries, once the mineral or product is mined, the values are gone, and the industry usually walks away and youre confronted then with the long haul with what people will do with what is left
We calculated once in a strip mine study we made about two years ago what the cost would be of restoring all the stripped areas in the United States. As I recall it was a very big cost, something like $2 billionAnd its also an uneconomic cost because this should have been done at the time the coal was mined and should have been charged as part of the cost of the mining So I fear this [reclamation] will have a very low priority, that it will not be done in the near future, and the result is that were going to be denied the use and benefit of these lands for recreation,[T]heres no damage to the land that is more permanent, and really more devastating, than what you see in the worst strip mining areas of the United States Stewart Udall, 1969 as watershed lands, and for the contribution that they can make to the country
Ive probably seen as much of this nation from a helicopter in the last 6 or 8 years as anybody and thats the best way to see it.. Because you see the beauty, you see the scars, you see the damage. And of course, theres no damage to the land that is more permanent, and really more devastating, than what you see in the worst strip mining areas of the United States The reason this is damaging is that if action is not taken to restore these stripped areas, theyre left there; they cant revegetate themselves at least it will take many, many tens or hundreds of years for anything to occur And that these become sort of permanent, man-made wastelands. We have too many people; we have too many things we need to do with our land; too much need for outdoor recreation and playgroundsWe cant afford to have wastelands created by man in this country. And this is the reason all of us have to regret the mistakes of the past and we have to determine that were not going to repeat those mistakes now.
In the Ohio academic community, meanwhile, Arnold Reitze, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, wrote a 1971 law review article entitled, Old King Coal and the Merry Rapists of Appalachia, in which he focused on some of strip minings effects in the Egypt Valley where Hanna was mining. Reitze found that in Belmont County, some 200,000 of the countys 346,000 total acres had been sold, leased, or optioned to coal interests. That beautiful county, he wrote, like scores of others, seems destined to become a wasteland of silted, acid waters, barren land, and patches of crown vetch, all legally reclaimed.New activists and a new governor were changing Ohios strip mine politics. Another professor who became involved was Dr. Theodore Ted Voneida, a professor of neurobiology also at Case Western. Voneida and his wife had built a cottage on Piedmont Lake in the Egypt Valley in the 1960s and soon began to see first hand the results of strip mining in that area. Voneida didnt like what he saw, and was amazed at what the strippers were doing to the land and communities. He began gathering documentation of strip minings impacts in the area measuring water pollution, taking photographs, and generally chronicling what was going on there. He also succeeded in getting The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland, the Akron Beacon Journal, and others news outlets interested in the strip mining story. By the early 1970s, Voneida would be quoted in newspaper stories on strip minings harmful effects, sometimes opposite Hanna Coals CEO, Ralph Hatch.
New political developments in Ohio also brought more attention to the lack of effective strip mine reclamation. John J. Gilligan, a democrat from Cincinnati who had served in the U.S. Congress for one term in 1965-1967 and had run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, was elected Ohios Governor in November 1970 (Gilligan was also the father of Kathleen Sebelius, who would later serve as Governor of Kansas and U,S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama Adminstration). Governor Gilligan took on strip mining as one of his top priorities, and he specifically backed a bill in the legislature that would bring tougher reclamation standards to Ohios coalfields.
Hanna Coal, meanwhile, made plans for mining south of I-70 and sought to exercise its highway crossing agreement with Ohio and the federal government. However, by late 1970, Hanna, and strip mining in Ohio, were getting some unwanted national attention, now cast in an Appalachian regional and national context over how best to deal with surface coal mining. And Hannas hulking machines were part of the theater and the damage being done.
On December 15, 1970, Ben Franklin, a reporter with The New York Times, did a story on strip mining that his editors ran on the front page with a photo of a ravaged Ohio strip mine scene. Strip-Mining Boom Leaves Wasteland in Its Wake, was the headline. Franklin filed his story from St. Clairsville, Ohio. And while the story covered strip mining nationally, it featured particular problems in Belmont County, where Hanna was then operating day and night.
Dec 15, 1970: Front-page story in the New York Times with photo of strip mine damage in Belmont County, Ohio and story that prominently featured Ohio strip mining, environmental issues there, and the Hanna Coal Company.
This rolling, unfarmed farm land, just west of the Ohio River, is being chewed into billions of tons of rocky rubble by strip mining for coal. More than five billion tons of it, long considered low-grade fuel too marginal for mass mining, lies less than 100 feet from the sur face in eastern Ohio, and a boom is on to recover it.
It is bringing an upheaval of terrain unmatched since the glaciers of the last Ice Age scoured these hills and valleys as far south as Cincinnati, compacting thick bituminous coal beds that have aged 300 million years
To lay bare the coal, farms, barns, silos, houses, churches and roads are being dynamited, scooped up by mammoth power shovels that tower 12 stories high, and piled in giant windrows of strip mine spoil banks.
Scores of aggrieved persons here have lost well water, have suffered sleepless nights from blasting, or have seen timbered acreage at their property lines turned into the 100-foot-deep pits of strip mines.
In his story, Franklin also quoted U.S. Congressman Wayne L. Hays, an Ohio Democrat who then lived in Flushing, Ohio, a Belmont County town which Franklin described as isolated on three sides by abandoned strip mine highwalls, the sheer, quarry-like cliffs where the strip mine excavation stopped. Congressman Hayes, cited in Franklins story, had this to say: Theyre turning this beautiful place into a desert Theyll take anything thats black and will burn It costs them more to really reclaim this land than the land is worth when theyre finished. No one has figured out what will happen to us here when theyre through, but I can tell you it isnt going to be pretty.
The GEM of Egypt at work in Ohio, circa 1960s-1970s, also illustrates the problem of highwalls the sheer-face cliffs, seen here on the right often left as unreclaimed final cuts when the mining was finished.
During 1970, environmental concerns continued to rise across the nation. On December 20th that year, President Richard Nixon established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the strip mine fight, just after Christmas 1970, West Virginias Secretary of State, Democrat John D. Jay Rockefeller announced that he would seek a ban on the surface mining of coal in West Virginia, with bills to that end introduced in the legislature in late January 1971. At the federal level too, by July 1971, West Virginias Congressman, Democrat Ken Heckler, had introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to ban surface coal mining. The prohibition efforts, however, at state and federal levels, would prove to be uphill fights.
A New York Times Op-Ed by Belmont County, Ohio resident brought further attention to the impact of strip mining on Ohios land and small towns.Ohio coal mining, meanwhile, continued to receive more national attention as a local Belmont County resident and former newspaper man named Doral Chenoweth wrote a January 1972 Op-Ed piece on that topic in the New York Times. The title line used for the piece was, Say Good-by to Hendrysburg, a small town then in the cross hairs of Hannas strip mining.
As the article contended, Hendrysburg would be ruined as a viable small town given what the strippers were doing to depopulate the area, having bought out many landowners. A pull quote used in the piece noted: All the farms started going in 1967 when the big shovels were moved in.
Barely a town by that point, Hendrysburg had been badgered day and night for several years by the hulking operations of The GEM of Egypt. Blasting and digging to get at the coal as well as 100-foot-deep excavations made around and near the town had unnerved residents. Wells were disrupted in some places. And since the shovel worked around the clock with lights, the towns homes were sometimes bathed in an eerie electric glow, as one reporter described it.
Florence Bethel, a Hendrysburg resident who worked as a telephone operator, had first-hand experience with The GEM of Egypt. She later recounted her tale to reporter George Vescy of the New York Times:
It started around Christmas of 1969. You could feel the blasting three and a half miles away. I had a brand new sealed well, 53 feet deep. The water got so muddy, it clogged the valves. Then my basement walls cracked. I was working nights and trying to stay in college. I couldnt sleep during the day. I called them up and asked them to take is easy, but it just got worse. Then my health started to go. I had a 3.2 average but it dropped to Ds and Fs. I had to drop out. Bethel sued Hanna for $107,500 and damages and moved to a mobile home south of Barnesville.
In February 1972, a two-day strip mining conference at Zanesville, Ohio attracted about 100 activists. Also that month, on February 26th, the Buffalo Creek disaster in West Virginia occurred. In the upper reaches of the Buffalo Creek watershed in Logan County, West Virginia, a series of large coal slurry waste gop impoundments burst after heavy rains, releasing a tidal wave of coal waste water on more than a dozen downstream communities. More than 125 people were killed, with at least 1,000 more injured and 4,000 left homeless. Upstream strip mining and mine wastes were implicated as contributing factors.
In March 1972, Ohio Governor John Gilligan, addressing the state legislature in opening his administration, listed strip mining legislation as among his priorities. As the new Ohio state strip mine bill was being considered in early 1972, among those coming to testify was Mrs. Alice J. Grossniklaus, of Holmes County, Ohio. Mrs. Grossniklaus had a cheese store near Wilmot, Ohio that she had run since 1932.Theyd call me at 2 or 3 a. m. and tell me that their cupboard doors were opening and closing from the blasting, flower pots were falling off the walls, and that the walls were cracking In the early 1960s, she had her first experienced strip mining on about 1.000 acres of land in nearby Tuscarawas County. She would explain that the mining was driving some of the neighbors crazy. Theyd call me at 2 or 3 a. m. and tell me that their cupboard doors were opening and closing from the blasting, flower pots were falling off the walls, and that the walls were cracking. What can we do, they would ask. I told them to call up the mine owners and get them out of bed so they could be bothered too. Grossniklaus had crusaded for tougher strip mine laws since 1963. Until then, I didnt even know what a strip mine was, she would say. But in March 1972, she drove to Columbus to testify before a Senate committee on the pending strip mine legislation, calling for the strongest possible bill. Ted Vonieda testified on the pending bill as well. He recommended a three-year ban on strip mining until a detailed study could be made of strip minings environmental impact on the state.
The new Ohio strip mine bill, backed by Governor Gilligan, was passed and took effect on April 10, 1972. But it wasnt clear how much the new law would help those in Belmont County facing the expansion of strip mining south of I-70, as the giant shovel prepared to cross the interstate. Local newspapers were reporting that the crossing by The Gem of Egypt could occur before June 15, 1972, ahead of the summer vacation season when traffic on I-70 would be at a peak levels. Local activists, however, were vowing to fight the crossing.
Among local residents who were opposed to the I-70 crossing was Barnesville City Council member Richard Garrett. After a couple of residents had come to him when strip mine blasting had damaged their homes, Garrett formed Citizens Organized to Defend the Environment (CODE) in June 1971, a grassroots effort aimed at the environmental impacts of strip mining.
The local opponents, however, were outnumbered by those who saw coal mining as key to their local economy and those who worked directly at the mines. During a summer 1972 public meeting sponsored by CODE in Barnesville, part of which was captured by an ABC-TV documentary, Echo of Anger, some of those working at the strip mines came out to offer their opinions.If that GEM is not able to cross the road, Im out of a job[I]f they keep the publicity up on this thing [i.e., the crossing], we are going to boycott the busi-nesses in town Bernard Delloma, mine worker A bulldozer operator working at the Egypt Valley Mine, Bernard Delloma, voiced his objection to the lawsuit filed to stop the crossing. If that [mine] shuts down, there are 322 of us [out of a job]. If that GEM is not able to cross the road, Im out of a job. Im out of a ten or twelve thousand dollar a year job. And he added that he and the other strip miners have organized and we say that if they keep the publicity up on this thing [i.e., the crossing], we are going to boycott the businesses in town. If we do, there wont be no town left.
I dont like stripping or any part of it, explained Barnesville furniture store owner John Kirk, quoted in a Wall Street Journal story. Kirk, in fact, had gone to Columbus to protest new mining regulations. Still, it isnt that simple, he said. Better than 10 percent of the work force in this county works for the mines. Newspaper editor Bill Davies of the Barnesville Enterprise agreed, Our future is definitely tied to the strip mining industry its more important to us that you think.
Map shows approximate location in Ohio of a planned I-70 crossing by a giant strip-mine shovel owned by the Hanna Coal Co. N.Y. Times map.But others in Barnesville were working on a plan to establish a one-mile greenbelt buffer around Barnesville where new surface mining would be prohibited. They also wanted additional reclamation for areas leading to and from the village to reduce the visual aspect of strip mining. The greenbelt group had some support from Governor Gilligan. Hanna/Consol, in negotiations with the group, agreed to reclaim its mined lands in the area to meet the standards of the 1972 Ohio Strip Mine Law, though technically Hanna was only bound by the less stringent 1965 law. Hannas Hatch also agreed to fund a land use plan for the area around the village and to work with local officials to ensure that reclamation did not violate the plan, which would also provide for post-mining planning and development of industrial sites and access roads.
Meanwhile, a permit for the crossing of I-70 by The GEM of Egypt strip mining shovel was issued to Hanna/Consol on August 7, 1972. Thats when the CODE group joined the Ohio Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in a lawsuit to challenge the I-70 crossing. Garrett in comments to the Times-Leader newspaper of Martins Ferry, Ohio, had stated earlier his groups intent to fight every one of those machines when they try to bring them across. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court. CODE was joined by Friends of the Earth and two local residents as listed plaintiffs
The legal battle would delay any further action on the crossing. Still, on September 29, 1972, Hanna/Consol moved to amend the crossing permit to substitute The Mountaineer and The Tiger (also known as 46-A) shovels, instead of The GEM of Egypt. Some speculated this was partly a public relations move on Hannas part, since the bigger GEM of Egypt had drawn national notice at the time. But Hannas CEO, Hatch noted that The GEM had plenty to do north of the interstate and would make the crossing later in 1973 or early in 1974.
In their legal challenge to the crossing, CODE and fellow plaintiffs made federal and state arguments. They raised questions of federal procedure and decision making under the Administrative Procedures Act; whether the U.S. Secretary of Transportation could approve such a crossing under the Federal Highway Act; and whether the action to cross might be construed to be a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act requiring an environmental assessment.
From Associated Press story, December 29, 1972, Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA).The plaintiffs also claimed that the state of Ohio lacked authority to allow Hanna/Consol to cross I-70 for three reasons: the Ohio Constitution required public roads to be open to the public at all times; the Ohio Director of Transportation may permit only special uses or occupancy of highways that will not inconvenience the traveling public; and Ohio law prohibits access to limited access highways at undesignated access points.
On each of these counts, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Kinneary in Columbus offered his findings and analysis, and on December 15th, 1972 he dismissed the plaintiffscase and allowed the crossing to proceed.
In his ruling, the judge cited as valid the 1964 shovel-crossing agreement the company had made with Ohio and the Federal highway agencies. He did note that the crossing of 170 would be an inconvenience, but one that would only slow traffic and not stop it, with suitable detours. Hanna would, however, be liable for any damage to the highway. So with Judge Kinnearys ruling, the crossing was allowed to proceed.
One protest group, The Commission on Religion in Appalachia, from Knoxville, Tennessee, made an 11th-hour appeal to Ohio Gov. Gilligan to step in and halt the crossings. But the giant shovels would not be stopped. Still, a coalition of protesters from Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia planned a peaceful march to the crossing site.
On January 4, 1973, in the early hours of a bitterly cold winter morning, the two mammoth machines first, the 5.5 million pound Mountaineer (65 cu yd bucket) followed by the smaller, 4.5 million pound Tiger (46 cu yd bucket) crossed I-70. The machines moved very slowly in making the transit, at a rate of about three miles an hour.
Grainy black & white photo of The Mountaineer shovel at left moving toward its crossing point of Interstate highway I-70 near Hendrysburg, Ohio, dumping sand ahead of itself as part of the land bridge being built to protect the highway surface from damage.
The crossing required a rerouting of traffic off I-70 for approximately 1 miles. Temporary entrance and exit ramps in both directions were constructed, connecting with State Route 800 onto which traffic was routed for a mile or so, until it could return to I-70. Uniformed flagmen were stationed to direct traffic through the re-routing. To protect the highway pavement, a special gravel and earthen land bridge was built across I-70 over which the Hanna shovels crossed. At least six feet of crushed stone and earth was used for the land bridge and heavy wooden mats were also placed over the crushed stone and earth. Sensors were also placed beneath the highway surface to test for any stress on the roadway.
The Mountaineer shovel shown continuing to aid in the construction of the land bridge upon which it and another shovel, The Tiger, would cross interstate highway I-70 in Ohio in order to strip mine coal fields on the other side.
A fleet of some eight bulldozers worked around the base of the big shovels, helping to shape and stabilize the land bridge ahead of the crossing. The transit of the big shovels began at noon on January 4th, 1973. Under the permit, Hanna was allotted a period of 24 hours to move its equipment, and officials at the company had estimated it would take from two to three hours to make the actual crossing. However, the crossing was made ahead of schedule and was actually completed by 6:30 pm that day.
The crossing of the big shovels made The NBC Evening News with John Chancellor on Friday, January 5th, 1973. The event was also front-page news in many Ohio newspapers, and was also covered in the New York Times and Washington Post. One local newsman rode along in The Tiger as that shovel made the crossing.
Jan 4, 1973: The Mountaineer earth-moving shovel makes the transit across I-70 near Hendrysburg, Ohio, on its journey south through Belmont County to help strip mine coal lands owned by Hanna Coal Co. near Barnesville.
Ted Voneida of Case Western Reserve University was one of the activists at the crossing. He was quoted in an Associated Press story on the day of the crossing: Im protesting the idea that we must trade off the environment for [electric] power in this country. I hope to let people know, especially in the western states, what is happening. Strip mining was then about to move west in a big way, to states such as Montana and Wyoming, where the land was flat to gently rolling, the coal seams thick, and the odds against reclamation even greater. Voneida was sounding a warning: the giant shovels were headed their way and the results would not be pleasant. Other protesters at the crossing all peaceful; there were no confrontations sought to highlight the fact that costs were being created costs to roads, water, and land that would be borne by the public, not the companies making the profits.
On January 5th, 1972, after the two shovels were moved across the highway, Arthur Wallace, who then headed Hannas reclamation efforts, conducted a bus tour of reclaimed areas for newsmen, as a contingent of press from out of state had gathered for the crossing. Wallace noted that Belmont Countys farming land, after strip mining, would be used for cattle grazing due to the lower quality of the restored land. Wallace noted that the cattle would graze on a variety of vegetation including alfalfa and crown vetch.
Once on the south side of I-70, The Mountaineer and The Tiger resumed their digging as Hanna/Consol continued strip mining in Belmont County for many years. And despite the new 1972 Ohio strip mine law (the implementation of which was blocked for several years by coal company litigation), Hannas Egypt Valley Mine continued its southward expansion, as the big shovels worked to turn the landscape upside down. True, some reclamation occurred in that area and throughout the state, and the land in some cases was returned to passable condition. But environmental problems from strip-mined land, and disruption for nearby communities, persisted for many years throughout the coal mining areas of the state, continuing for some areas as this is written.
But during the 1970s, in the Belmont County area and other Ohio counties, there appears to have been continued struggle between local residents and coal mining companies. Among those residents, for example, was Mary Workman of Steubenville, Ohio (shown below) who would not sell her land to Hanna Coal Company even though the company owned much of the land around her and many of the local roads were closed. In the early 1970s, she filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company for ruining her water (still searching for the outcome of that case).
Photo date, October 1973. Mary Workman of Steubenville, Ohio holds a jar of undrinkable water that comes from her well. At the time, she had filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Co.; she had to transport water from a well many miles away. She also resisted selling her land to the coal company, even though much of the land around her was sold and many of the roads closed. Photo, Erik Calonius, U.S. EPA Documerica Project.
By August 1977, the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, providing hope in the nations coalfields for improved regulation and better reclamation outcomes. Among those invited to the Rose Garden signing ceremony was Barnesvilles Richard Garrett and Case Western Reserve Universitys Ted Voneida. Yet even with the 1977 federal law, which did help raise mining safety and reclamation standards across the country, the record now 40 years later remains mixed, with the laws Abandoned Lands Reclamation Fund a frequent target of the industry, and in 2017, slammed by an Inspector Generals report for diversions of reclamation monies in some states for non-reclamation purposes.
In southeastern Ohio, meanwhile, strip mining, and the regions reliance on a single industry, has not made for a viable economy. As Allen J. Dieterich-Ward noted of the region, writing in his 2006 dissertation, Mines, Mills and Malls: Regional Development in the Steel Valley:
By the late 1970s, the rise in mining employment coupled with the failure significantly to diversify employment or to develop the regions infrastructure meant that the areas economic fortunes increasingly rested on a single industry. The continued use of surface mining had also depopulated large swaths of the area, leaving behind thousands of acres unsuitable for either industrial or recreational development. The collapse in the market for the areas high sulfur coal during the 1980s prompted a steep drop in mine employment. Combined with losses in the heavy industrial employers along the Ohio River, the mine closures created a mass exodus from the region and the collapse of the local economy.
Columbus Dispatch newspaper map of the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area in S.E. Ohio.Back in Barnesville, meanwhile, in the mid-1990s, a group of residents began to mobilize around their earlier Greenbelt plan the plan agreed upon in 1972 but never afforded legal standing. When another mining company later acquired mineral rights in the Barnesville area, a group of residents, including some of those who had protested the original I-70 crossing, petitioned the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources to deny the company permits, sparking a series of legal battles that continued through the late 1990s.
Elsewhere in the region, some of the land where Hannas monster shovels roamed, ironically, has been converted into parks and wildlife areas. In Harrison County, the surrounding hillsides of what is now the Sally Buffalo Park were strip mined for coal in the 1950s. Hanna had also built a dam there in 1953 to reclaim some of the mined land, and the area was first used as a recreation area for company employees. The restored area became a public park in 1965.
The 18,000-acre Egypt Valley Wildlife Area was created by the state of Ohio in 1994-95. It includes land in the northwest corner of Belmont County where The GEM of Egypt worked for a number of years. Approximately 80 percent of the acreage in the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area has been strip mined. The last active mine there was completed in 1998. The converted wildlife area, however, as of 2015, has been targeted for coal re-mining. Oxford Mining Co. a subsidiary of Westmoreland Coal Co, won a 2015 case before the Ohio Supreme Court allowing it to strip mine there. Given this decision (which involved a privately-held in-holding), other Ohio parks, forests, and wildlife areas may also be vulnerable to strip mining. 2009 map of abandoned coal mines and unfunded cleanup sites in SE Ohio. Source: Columbus Dispatch.
Part of coals legacy in Southeast Ohio continues to be the abandoned mines that have been left behind. As of 2009, the state estimated that more than 600,000 acres of coal had been mined underground in Ohio and more than 720,000 acres had been strip mined. The Columbus Dispatch map at left shows those areas of known mine sites underground and stripped that have been abandoned, as well as unfunded cleanup sites.
In 2012, a Columbus Dispatch story on coal and polluted streams in the state, noted: Coals legacy on Ohios waters, particularly in the southeastern part of the state, is visible in creek after yellow creek. In some instances, coal companies intentionally pumped water out of coal mines into nearby streams. In others, abandoned coal mines that fill with rainwater continuously leach water into nearby watersheds. Some 1,300 miles of streams or creeks in Ohio have been polluted by water from coal mines.
Scientists and citizen organizations in Ohio have initiated some remediation efforts in a few watersheds that have been heavily mined. One of these has been a partnership working to restore the Raccoon Creek watershed in southeastern Ohio. This watershed with multiple streams drains 683 square miles of land in six counties: Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, and Vinton. Coal extraction over nearly 100 years in the area has badly damaged the watershed. On a map of the watershed below, strip-mined areas are indicated in dark blue, while deep-mined areas are shown in red.
In the early 1950s, Ohios Division of Wildlife performed the first study of the Raccoon Creek basin and found little aquatic life due to abandoned coal mines and acid-producing wastes. Some 350 million tons of coal were mined in this watershed between 1820 and 1993, affecting nearly 40,000 acres.
Blue (stripped), red (deep-mined), 6-county Raccoon Ck. watershed.Given poor mining regulation and the lack of reclamation that prevailed until the mid-1970s, vast amounts of waste and spoil were generated, and thousands of tons of toxic coal refuse were spread throughout the watershed. Erosion and acid mine drainage were rampant. Stream water quality, however, has improved as the result of reclamation in the watershed from the 1980s. And substantial improvement has occurred since the 1950s.
As of 2005, however, Ohio scientists believed that it would still take a decade for recent remediation efforts in the watershed to have any pronounced changes on the water quality and biology of its streams. A number are still in poor or fair condition. But in a few streams, there have been improvements in water chemistry and aquatic habitat. Findings of aquatic insects and fish in Little Raccoon Creek, for example, while not in great numbers, show a diversity that some scientists find promising for the future.
As for the monster machines that caused all the damage and commotion back in the 1960s and 1970s, all three of them had long mining careers. The Tiger, from 1944, worked up through the 1970s; The Mountaineer, began working in 1956, stopped digging in 1979 and was scrapped in 1988; and The GEM of Egypt of 1967, dug its last shovelful in 1988. The Silver Spade, a sister shovel to The GEM, and also used by Hanna, continued mining though January 2006, in part because The GEM was used for parts to keep The Spade running. More history and background on the big machines, and Ohios surface mining history, is available at the Harrison Coal & Reclamation Historical Park in Cadiz, Ohio.
For additional stories at this website on the history of coal and coal mining, see for example, the following: Paradise: 1971 (about a John Prine song, strip mining in Muhlenberg County, KY, and the demise of a small town); Mountain Warrior (profile of Kentucky author and coal-field activist, Harry Caudill, noted for his famous book, Night Comes to The Cumberlands and his life-long critique of Appalachian strip mining); Sixteen Tons, 1950s (the famous Tennessee Ernie Ford song and some coal mining history); and, G.E.s Hot Coal Ad, 2005 (a General Electric TV ad that casts a new breed of coal miners).
Louise C. Dunlap, An Analysis of the Legislative History of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1975, Proceedings of the Twenty-First Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute, Matthew Bender & Co.: New York , 1976.
For an excellent retrospective on the 1970s-1990s history of the strip mining fight, citizen activists involved in that fight, and history on the strip mine law, The Surface Mining Control & Reclamation Act of 1977, see, Special Issue on the 20th Anniversary of the Federal Coal Law, Citizens Coal Council Reporter, August 3. 1997.
WKYC-TV, NBC, Cleveland, Ohio, The Ravaged Earth (1969 documentary film on strip mining, featuring in part, strip mined lands in Perry County, Ohio and officials from Perry County, commenting on strip mine damage in that county; 21:24 minutes), Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University,
James Hyslop, Vice President, Consolidation Coal Company, Some Present Day Reclama-tion Problems: An Industrialists Viewpoint, The Ohio Journal of Science, Vol. 64, No. 2 (March, 1964), pp. 157-165.
Allen J. Dieterich-Ward, Mines, Mills and Malls: Regional Development in the Steel Valley, A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (History), University of Michigan, 2006.
Ken Hechler, Strip Mining: a Clear and Present Danger, Not Man Apart (Friends of the Earth), V. 1, July 1971 (discusses strip mining and urges support for his bill, HR 4556, which would ban all strip mining six months after its passage).
Interior Committee, House, U. S. Congress. Regulation of Strip Mining, Hearings, 92nd Cong., 1st Session, H.R. 60 and Related Bills. Washington, D.C., U.S. Govt Printing Office, 1972. 890 pp. Hearings held Sept. 20 Nov. 30, 1971.
Citizens Organized to Defend Environment, Inc. v. Volpe, 353 F. Supp. 520 (S.D. Ohio 1972), U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio 353 F. Supp. 520 (S.D. Ohio 1972), December 15, 1972.
Mountaineer Goes for A Cruise, [Thursday, January 4, 1973, The Mountaineer and The Tiger crossed I-70 near Hendrysburg, Ohio. The following pictures are from the January 5 Times-Leader (Martins Ferry and Bellaire, Ohio) and were taken by Boyd Nelson.]
Erik Calonius, Photo Albums (freelance photographer hired for EPAs Documerica Project, 1971-1977 ) Included at this URL are some extensive photos, now in the National Archives, of strip mining and strip mine damage in Southeastern Ohio, circa 1973-74.