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Read comments of some of the visitors to the site

Government Agencies

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection 759-0510

U.S. Office of Surface Mining 347-7162

Coal Groups

West Virginia Coal Association 346-5318


AppalachianPower a site devoted to understanding
Appalachian culture and values and passing on the heritage to the students
of today.  The site has numerous first-person interviews with the
Scots-Irish settlers and other immigrants who have struggled through coal
mine tragedies, union wars, floods, and industrialization and
de-industrialization to help form the modern Appalachia.  It has
prescriptions for reform, celebrations of things that are worth preserving
in the modern world, and paints a unique portrait of mountain people in their own words.

Charleston Gazette - articles on mountaintop removal

Blasting Study Read an analysis of what causes so many blasting problems

Citizen     Groups



CLEARC1.gif (218728 bytes)
Bettie Wriston inspects a valley fill at the Costain Coal mine in Clear Creek after the June 1, 1997 flood

        Tracy and Bettie Wriston have lived their entire lives in Clear Creek. Tracy worked in deep mines and is now retired. They live up the right fork of Clear Creek on a farm once owned by Tracy's father. Bettie works at the school at the end of the hollow on the main road that runs from Beckley to Whitesville.                                                   The Wristons know what it's like to live below a mine. In the late 1960s, the mountains behind their farm were being strip mined. A heavy rain caused a washout from the mine. The creek overflowed its banks; their road was closed.                                                   They thought strip mines were gone from the area. But in the early 1990s, Costain Coal began mining the same mountains behind their farm. About a mile behind the house, the mine has built a large pond to catch the runoff from two valley fills. At the beginning of May, Tracy and Bettie Wriston trudged across the creek and through the field and woods to the pond. It stretched for nearly an acre and was full to the brim. On the cool Spring late afternoon, the water was dark and clear. Above it to the right, trees had been shaved from the sides of the valley. Dirt and rocks had been tossed down as the valley was becoming a valley fill. As Bettie walked up the road, she commented: "If this (the pond) goes, everything from here to the school will go."                                           When the rain fell on the evening of June 1, the water rushed down the creek past the Wriston's farm. "It sounded like a train," she said. Their road was closed for several days. And the parking lot of the school was so flooded that it couldn't be used as a temporary shelter the night of the storm.          

  Harvey Maynor lives about half a mile    harvey.gif (50916 bytes)

  from the Wristons up Toney's Fork in Clear Creek. For several years, a valley fill ended within 400 feet of his house, which is across the road from the fill. His wife had been expecting a washout from the fill. There were a couple of short downpours on the evening of June 1, but none were that hard, the family recalled. Maynor's son had just come back to the house after checking the pond at the base of the fill. All of a sudden something collapsed along the left side of the fill (seen above). Debris and water filled the tiny pond. A wave of water, mud and rocks washed over the side, flattening the grass near where Maynor is standing. Some came down the hill into the Maynors' porch and living room. Another torrent went to the right, leaving rocks under a nearby mobile home. The mine was given a violation by the state Division of Environmental Protection. The entire valley fill was rebuilt later in the year. After some delays, the mine paid for the Maynors' damages.


Nearly 30 years ago, rocks and dirt tumbled off the hills from the surface mines above Clear Creek, about 20 miles southwest of Beckley. In one particularly large storm, a car belonging to Ellis Bailey was buried up to its windows by rocks. And it stayed covered for years, looking as if cement had been poured around it for abstract art.      After a number of washouts from the mines, Bailey and other Clear Creek residents decided they had had enough.. Accompanied by Vista volunteers, they journeyed twisty mountainous roads for several hours to the state legislature. A bit awed by the cavernous House and Senate rooms, nonetheless they managed to convey their plight to the state legislators. The residents of Clear Creek couldn't return to the Legislature to witness the final vote. As rain sheeted down the windows, they huddled around the black and white television for the news. Victory. The state had passed a new law controlling surface mining. That law later became the model for parts of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, passed in 1977.                   The laws have controlled the mines over the years. But now the mountaintop mines are much larger. Three years ago, Rex and Lena Stover, who live about three miles east of Clear Creek lost their well after blasting began for the mine above their house. For Lena, the problem was all to close to home. Ellis Bailey was her grandfather.