Eco Watch Reports on Adkins Fork: Your Voice Needed Now to Save Blair Mountain

Your Voice Needed Now to Save Blair Mountain from Mountaintop Removal Mining
11-21-2012

Jeff Biggers

St. Louis-based Arch Coal obviously didn’t get the memo last week.

As fellow absentee coal company Patriot announced its intentions to phase out large scale strip mining operations in central Appalachia, and a renewed effort was launched in Washington, DC to get Congress and the White House to deal with the mounting health and humanitarian crisis and pass the ACHE Act—Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act—moratorium on all mountaintop removal, Arch displayed its Big Coal hubris by moving forth with a permit application to strip mine the historic confines of Blair Mountain in West Virginia.

Another Blair Mountain Thanksgiving, another outlandish, toxic and unnecessary strip mining permit to fight in an area that virtually every historian and archaeologist and coal miner considers to be one of the most important and sacred sites for labor history—the site of largest armed insurrection for labor rights in the country.

In June 2011, hundreds of miners, activists, students, academics, environmentalists and others marched to West Virginia’s historic Blair Mountain in an effort to save it from mountaintop removal.

Residents in the Blair Mountain region need you to speak now against the destruction of their history—and their health and livelihood.

Here’s a link to the writing letter campaign to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on the proposed permit, which is due at the end of this week.

“The Adkins Fork permit would destroy one of the most important areas of the battlefield,” said Brandon Nida, an archaeologist from UC Berkeley and organizer with the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance located in Blair. “From archaeological surveys, this is the one of the only areas we positively know was occupied by the miners. We’ve found ammunition from the miners, we know where they fought and died. This is some of the most hallowed ground in labor history.”

Earlier this spring, West Virginia-raised Nida gave an overview of Blair Mountain and its historical significance and the latest battle against Arch Coal.

“This permit adds to the cumulative impacts for the Spruce Fork watershed which has an estimated 17,000 acres permitted or with current operations,” said Kenneth King, a local resident who has worked to preserve Blair Mountain for the last twenty years. “And it’s not just the environment, I’m also really concerned about how this is going to affect people’s health.”

King cited numerous peer-reviewed health studies linking mountaintop removal mining to health hazards and risks, including rare forms of cancer, respiratory issues, and birth defects.

Here’s a video overview of the campaign, featuring local resident King:

King added: “We need everyone to write in, but that is just the first step. This is going to be a tough campaign against one of the largest coal companies in the world. We need people to stay involved as we take this campaign to the national level.”

http://ecowatch.org/2012/save-blair-mountain-mtr/

Save Blair Mountain – Adkins Fork Press Release

Here is the press release in full, as well as links to the campaign video and our letter writing campaign:

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJPhBDykMZM

Campaign Info: http://blairmountain.org/letters-for-adkins-fork/

Press Release:

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 19, 2012

Contact: Brandon Nida

Organizer, Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance
304-583-5437
blairheritage@gmail.com

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Preservationists Initiate Campaign to Block Surface Mine Permit on Blair Mountain
Say Adkins Fork Permit will Destroy Important Part of the Battlefield

BLAIR, W.Va. — Community members, local organizations, and national groups are coming together in opposition to the renewal of an Arch Coal surface mine that threatens the Blair Mountain battlefield and town of Blair in Logan County, West Virginia.

The battlefield is where in 1921 the largest labor conflict in US history occurred. An estimated ten thousand coalminers fought for five days against a coal-operator backed army until federal troops were finally able to peaceably halt the conflict.

“The Adkins Fork permit would destroy one of the most important areas of the battlefield,” says Brandon Nida, an archaeologist from UC Berkeley and organizer with the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance (BMHA) located in Blair. “From archaeological surveys, this is the one of the only areas we positively know was occupied by the miners. We’ve found ammunition from the miners, we know where they fought and died. This is some of the most hallowed ground in labor history.”

“The importance of this battle in both West Virginian and US history is enormous,” continues Nida. “It propelled the UMWA to become the backbone of the labor movement and helped them form the United Steelworkers and the United Autoworkers. This battle significantly shaped the course of the American 20th century.”

“As a West Virginian and a union steelworker, I feel it is extremely important to preserve this battlefield,” says BMHA board member Jeremy Hatfield. “Every work shift I go without an accident, every weekend I get to spend with my family, every day that I get to clock out after eight hours, I thank the miners that fought at Blair Mountain for those rights”.

The town of Blair already has had extensive mountaintop removal mining in the area, and the Spruce No. 1 surface mine is currently in operation above the community. Since the 1990s the town has dropped from a population of 700 to roughly 70 people today.

“This permit adds to the cumulative impacts for the Spruce Fork watershed which has an estimated 17,000 acres permitted or with current operations,” says Kenneth King, a local resident who has worked to preserve Blair Mountain for the last twenty years. “And its not just the environment, I’m also really concerned about how this is going to affect people’s health.” Recently, numerous peer-reviewed health studies have linked mountaintop removal mining to health hazards such as rare forms of cancer, respiratory issues, and birth defects. Last week, Patriot Coal, one of the largest surface mining companies in Appalachia, publicly recognized the impacts of surface-mining on nearby communities.

The Adkins Fork campaign is being initiated with a letter writing campaign during the WV DEP’s open comment period for the permit, which ends Nov. 23rd. “We need everyone to write in, but that is just the first step. This is going to be a tough campaign against one of the largest coal companies in the world. We need people to stay involved as we take this campaign to the national level,” says King.

More information about the letter writing campaign can be found at www.blairmountain.org

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National Media Coverage: W.Va. activists battle Blair Mountain mine permit

W.Va. activists battle Blair Mountain mine permit

November 19, 2012 @ 11:19 AM

2012/The Herald-Dispatch

Herald-Dispatch.com

BLAIR, W.Va. (AP) — They’ve lost at every turn with courts and regulators, but activists trying to protect West Virginia’s historic Blair Mountain from strip mining aren’t giving up.

Residents, environmentalists, history buffs and others are now fighting the renewal of a mining permit that St. Louis-based Arch Coal is seeking from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The public comment period on the Adkins Fork permit ends Friday.

In 1921, some 10,000 coal miners who had been trying to unionize for years marched to the southern West Virginia town of Blair and scrambled up the mountain to battle a dug-in army of police and hired guns who had homemade bombs and machine guns. At least 16 men died before the miners surrendered to federal troops in what became the nation’s largest armed uprising since the Civil War.

“We’ve found ammunition from the miners; we know where they fought and died,” he said. “This is some of the most hallowed ground in labor history.”

Kenneth King, a Blair resident who has tried to preserve the battlefield for decades, said the mining would only add to the cumulative impact on the Spruce Fork watershed, where some 17,000 acres are already permitted or being mined.

“This is going to be a tough campaign against one of the largest coal companies in the world,” King said, urging people to stay involved as the fight continues.

A spokeswoman for Arch didn’t immediately comment Monday.

Archaeologist Brandon Nida, who said he has found artifacts in the permit area, says the Adkins Fork permit would destroy one of the most important sections of the battlefield.

“We’ve found ammunition from the miners; we know where they fought and died,” he said. “This is some of the most hallowed ground in labor history.”

Nida calls the significance of the Battle of Blair Mountain “enormous” for the U.S. labor movement.

It helped the United Mine Workers of America become the backbone of the labor movement, he said, and helped form the United Steelworkers and the United Autoworkers.

The 1,600-acre battlefield was briefly added to the National Register of Historic Places, and then removed when private property owners objected. Several groups sued to have that status restored but lost their court challenge in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., last month.

It was just the latest of several setbacks.

Last summer, the state Department of Environmental Protection ruled that about 30 percent of the land is exempt from that declaration because it’s already covered under mining permits, while other areas are exempt because there is clear evidence of past mining activity.

Extensive mountaintop removal mining around Blair has already decimated the population. Since the 1990s, the number of residents has dropped from about 700 to 70.

For additional coverage off this story visit:

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

San Fransisco Chronicle

Seattle PI

NewsOK

Yahoo News

The Charleston Gazette

wtov

WVVA

Yahoo News – Anthropology and Archeology

KRMG Oklahoma

WTRF Wheeling, WV

All Voices

WVNS TV Ghent, WV

WSAZ Ch.3 Charleston, WV

EcoWatch

Houston Chronicle

Letter Writing for Adkins Fork – NOV. 23!!!

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Dear friends, we are currently initiating a directed campaign to challenge and block Arch Coal’s attempt to renew the Adkins Fork permit at Blair Mountain. This permit is one of the most significant, as it lies in the heart of the battlefield and is the permit closest to the town of Blair.

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THE FIRST STEP IS WRITING LETTERS TO THE WV DEP – Due NOV. 23!!!

CLICK HERE FOR THE SAMPLE LETTER (printable pdf)

CLICK HERE FOR ADKINS FORK INFORMATION SHEET (printable pdf)

LINK TO WV DEP’S E-PERMIT FOR ADKINS FORK (link)

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This will be a tough campaign, and we will need all the help we can get. The first part of this campaign is the easiest. We need everyone to write a letter and send it to the WV Department of Environmental Protection by November 23. It is best to handwrite these letters, but we know not everyone can do that, so we have written out a form letter below. Print it, sign it, and stick it in the mail!

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As we move forward with this campaign over the next few months, we will have a series of events and drives that you can come out to or that you can participate in at home. Some of the events will be spread out across the nation, so even if you are not in West Virginia you can pitch in.

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If you would like to stay informed, please sign up on our mailing list, join us on twitter, follow us on facebook or send us an email at blairheritage@gmail.com

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REMEMBER, the letters need to be received by Nov. 23!!! Let’s get this campaign off to a bang and SAVE BLAIR MOUNTAIN!!!

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CLICK HERE FOR THE SAMPLE LETTER (printable pdf)

CLICK HERE FOR ADKINS FORK INFORMATION SHEET (printable pdf)

LINK TO WV DEP’S E-PERMIT FOR ADKINS FORK (link)

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Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance
www.blairmountain.org