Eleven generations of Dustin White’s family have lived in West Virginia. Many of them were buried in a cemetery now surrounded by a massive mountaintop removal coal mine.
The Twilight mine, which flattened and stripped an expanse of heavily-forested mountains covering more than 3.5 square miles, has met most of its official clean-up requirements. It is green with grass. But the mountaintop removed to dig out the coal has not been rebuilt, nor has the forest that previously thrived been regrown.
Across the U.S., mine reclamation — even when approved by state regulators — rarely returns land to pre-mining levels of wilderness or productivity, according to a decade of government reports compiled by Climate Home News. Most supposedly reclaimed mines end up as low-value grassland, leaving communities already hit by the loss of mining jobs short of alternatives.