M. A. Palmer, E. S. Bernhardt, W. H. Schlesinger, K. N. Eshleman, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, M. S. Hendryx, A. D. Lemly, G. E. Likens, O. L. Loucks, M. E. Power, P. S. White, P. R. Wilcock
Keywords: MTR, environmental contamination, heart disease, cancer
Purpose: In this landmark article in Science magazine, 12 scientists conducted an independent study and literature review to assess the impacts of environmental contamination from mountaintop removal mining.
Important Findings: The authors found evidence of water pollution even on reclaimed sites, increased hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension, and increased incidents of lung cancer, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease, and overall mortality rates. As a result of these findings, the paper calls for the halting of all new mountaintop removal mining permits.
Significant Quotes: “Mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses.”
“Current mitigation strategies are meant to compensate for lost stream habitat and functions but do not; water quality degradation caused by mining activities is neither prevented nor corrected during reclamation or mitigation.”
Results: The scientists examined the environmental contaminants produced by MTR and found that even when mine sites were reclaimed, area water samples contained higher levels of mine-derived chemical constituents than well water from un-mined areas. For example, out of 78 MTR mine sites with valley fills, 73 had selenium water concentrations greater than the 2.0 ug/liter threshold for toxic bioaccumulation. Results also showed adult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension were present in significantly greater rates near coal production sites, as were incidents of lung cancer, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease, and overall mortality rates.
Palmer, M. A., et al. "Mountaintop Mining Consequences". Science, 327 (2010): 148-9.