As the name inplies, mountaintop removal mining involves the highly profitable removal of a mountaintop via explosives by coal mining companies. Companies then mine coal seams previously trapped beneath the rock.
While coal companies attempt to rebuild the mountaintop in an approximation of its original appearance, excess rock and dirt containing toxic mining products are dumped into area valleys and streams. As NASA reports, the environmental and health effects of this kind of mining on area soil and water are called “pervasive and irreversible” by experts.
Pictured here is the Hobet surface mine in Boone County, W.Va., as imaged by NASA. We see the area in 1984 (left) and 2010. In 1984, the mine was still relatively small. By 2010, it had completely filled the Connelly Branch to the Mud River.