Pan Appalachian Defender

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Memorial Service in Forested Cemetery Amidst Mountain Devastation

To end the Healing Mountains conference on a somber, yet inspirational and action-oriented note, about 100 conference participants carpooled to Kayford Mountain on Memorial Day. For many, it was their first time seeing the extreme-mining devastation that is mountaintop removal.
Kayford Mountain is the ancestral home of OVEC board member Larry Gibson. The Stanley Cemetery atop Kayford provides a vantage point for viewing “reclaimed” and active mountaintop removal sites. Journalists, students and concerned citizens from throughout the United States and beyond have visited the cemetery to witness the destruction first hand—Larry hosted over 700 people on the mountain in 2005.
Another lesser known cemetery on Kayford is the Stover Cemetery. The old mountaintop cemetery, covered with daylilies shaded by maples, sassafras, basswood and many other hardwood-tree species, is an oasis surrounded by a scene of desecration -- over 12,000 acres of active and “reclaimed” mountaintop removal mines operated by subsidiaries of Arch Coal and Massey Energy. The cemetery is trapped inside an Arch Coal mountaintop removal operation, and Arch previously has been reluctant to grant Stover kin access. But, it was hard to refuse the crowd that Gibson led to the mine gates on Memorial Day.
Laws require mountaintop removal operations to relocate cemeteries from mining, or to not mine within 100 feet of cemeteries and to give people access to cemeteries remaining on otherwise mined land. Coalfield residents frequently report that they are denied admission to cemeteries; when they are allowed in, they are almost always accompanied by guards.
Allen Johnson, co-founder of Christians for the Mountains, led the prayers on the mountaintop. Emotional memorial service participants joined hands and reflected in silence, then vowed to abolish mountaintop removal coal mining.
“At the cemetery we paid tribute to those before us who have loved these mountains and to the indomitable power of the human spirit,” Heartwood organizer Andy Mahler said. “We made a vow that together we would forever end the practice known as mountaintop removal coal mining.”


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