Pros and Cons of Mountaintop Removal

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As the name suggests, mountaintop removal is a form of mining process where the entire top of a mountain is blown off with the purpose of opening it up. As a drastic procedure, it has gained unwanted attention in the past few years, with many groups coming together to ban the practice due to its effects on the environment and the nearby towns. However, not everything with it is necessarily bad though, so it is important to look at its pros and cons to come up with a good opinion about it.

List of Pros of Mountaintop Removal

1. It is cheaper than traditional ways of mining coal.
Among the objectives of clean coal mining is to try and reduce atmospheric pollution, while at the same time lower down the costs of obtaining the coal that we need to burn for power. Now, when done correctly, mountaintop removal will be able to accomplish both these goals rather efficiently.

2. It opens the door for infrastructure development.
Once miners remove a mountaintop, it will become a viable piece of land that can be used for development. In places where this method of mining has been successfully completed, the lands have been actually transformed into airports, highway interchanges, golf courses and even shopping malls.

3. It provides high-paying jobs to designated communities.
Removing mountaintops is a skilled mining task that pays relatively high salaries. As a lot of these mines tend to be located in some of the poor regions in the world, it can provide economic boost to these areas by employing hundreds of local workers who would then be able to live, shop and find entertainment just at home.

List of Cons of Mountaintop Removal

1. It alters the way how local lands can be utilized.
Most of the time, mountaintop removal will create wet spots that can be used to support aquatic life. However, the water is not often suitable for human consumption. Also, slurry ponds would be required, which means that forests have to be divided. Moreover, rivers and streams may have their routes changed, as the land would change, even making mud flows as future possibility.

2. It can increase levels of birth defects.
In addition to being pointed out by a few studies, the changes in mineral content and atmospheric quality at a mountaintop coal are actually observed to be responsible for higher levels of birth defect. If this is finally proven true, then the need for cheaper and cleaner coal would not be worth the safety of future babies.

3. It can affect the local water table.
It is not rare that mountaintop removal has changed local ground water quality. As you can see, there is often seen an increase or decrease of the amount of minerals that are present in these mines, which can adversely eliminate fish species and affect local wildlife, causing less animal diversity.

By weighing the pros and cons of mountaintop removal, we can decide whether it is a practice that we should continue or not. It definitely has cost-saving advantages, but it also comes at the expense of local geological changes. What do you think; do the benefits outweigh the risks?