End Mountain Top Removal Campaign with Google Earth

Coal Mining Mountain Top Removal in Google EarthIn an attempt to help spread the word about a travesty of environmental damage being caused by the coal mining industry in the US, an organization has turned to Google Earth to provide undeniable evidence of the damage. The coal industry has been using a new technique for getting to coal that is much more damaging to the environment (although less expensive for them to conduct). They basically blast the tops off mountains to get to the coal, and move the tops of the mountains into the valley’s (covering the streams and wildlife in the process). A web site has been created called “ILoveMountains.org” which has a link to the Google Earth content , or you can watch videos documenting the process (and damage). Looking at the areas in Google Earth, flags mark the “memorial” to destroyed mountains. The devastation is easily visible even in the low-res areas. How the coal industry could do this much damage without a greater outcry is a wonder of political clout. Of course, hiding the evidence in remote mountainous areas of West Virginia and Kentucky helped. At least until Google Earth arrived. The web site provides steps on what you can do (if you are a US citizen) to help.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Jarno Peschier says

    Interesting. Looking at the Valley Fill placemark in the Mountaintop Remval Site Tour (tilted down, too bad this XML file does not include tilted placemark snapshots for extra dramatic messure), I cannot help but wondering whether the terrain altitude data is from before work on this began, because the image at the valley fill location seems to indicate a dam-like filling in the valley, while the Google Earth terrain shows a valley splitting into two branches going right into the heart of the site. Creepy…

  2. Jarno Peschier says

    Oh, and a road – still in the Google Earth road data for the area – seemed to have run through the mentioned valley. No sign of that road can now be seen in the entire two mile plus stretch of its previous path going right through this mining site.

  3. Do you know how many of these mountains are being destroyed every year or what the rate of growth for this mining practice is?

  4. Don’t mountains have rights?
    Well no, but then again: If the mountains had arms, surely the mountains themselves would rise up and throw large boulders from their skree fields at the coal companies. The same companies who insist on turning remote unnoticed rocks into jobs and energy in, well, remote mountainous areas.
    Perhaps Google should enter the lucrative remote-rock-pile purchase and preservation business. If Google thinks that YouTube was a good investment, why not entire rock-candy mountains???

  5. A good percentage of our electricity comes from coal, and a percentage of this comes from mountaintop removal. Are we willing to turn down the lights, adjust the thermostat, lower those cathedral ceilings, reduce our electric usage as part of what needs to be done to ween ourselves from coal? We are all a part of this, until we are ready to address our use of fossil fuels to support our overindulgent lives.
    spirituality and ecological hope

  6. Thanks for this post! The people of the Appalachian coalfields need all the help they can get. Please spread the word to your friends and family to help end moutaintop removal coal mining. Visit http://www.iLoveMountains.org to find out how. Thanks for caring!

  7. I am writing a representive in class and i believe that this needs to come to an end. Coal is very harmful to our lungs.
    We need to stop blowing off the tops of mountians for many reasons…
    It is polluting the rivers and streams at the botton that some people drink. That coal can get into the water and make people very sick or even cause death.
    Breathing in dust of coal is also very harmful.
    This has got to stop.
    Hillary Clinton and Obama are both for this so we need to vote for someone who will end this now so our future can be a cleaner enviroment.

  8. Emily,
    You now must be in the fifth or sixth grade, judging by your excellence at English composition. Congratulations!
    It is good that you and your classmates and teacher are so interested in environmental protection. Did you write a letter to your Congressman about mountaintop removal mining? Did you get a reply? We all would be interested in knowing what the reply was.
    You should know that all coal strip mining — and not just mountaintop removal mining — is unnecessarily harmful to the environment because of all the methane that it releases to the air. When coal is mined by underground mining methods, all responsible mining companies now drill gas wells into the coal seams before they mine the coal, and they collect most of the natural gas (methane) in the coal before the mining equipment, and miners, get to it. This greatly reduces the danger of methane and coal dust explosions in the mine, and the methane from the degasification wells is sold commercially for use as fuel instead of being released to the air.
    Keep up the good work!

  9. This article is a perfect example of what disgusts me about this whole subject. People want to inform you of all the harmful effects of mountain top removal. They want to recruit you and have you “help their cause” but they never once tell you just what will happen if coal mining were to come to an end.
    This legislation would result in every American paying a carbon tax for turning on the lights, driving to work or heating and cooling their homes. Even more disturbing is the fact that millions of jobs would be lost over the next 20 years under Cap and Trade. At a time when 2.9 million Americans have lost their jobs this year alone, it is irresponsible and unacceptable to support this reckless bill. Now is not the time!

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.