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Memorial at Cemetery in Midst of Mountaintop Removal Site

Healing Mountains Slated To Be Largest Conference of Mountaintop Removal Opponents Yet

John Blair's Photos from Healing Mountains
 

Memorial Day on Kayford Mountain

May 29, 2006
Photos by Vivian Stockman

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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. 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 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 apparently previously has been reluctant to grant Stover kin access. But, it was hard to refuse the crowd -- including four elderly Catholic Sisters -- that Gibson led to the mine gates on Memorial Day (some stayed behind in the Stanley Heirs Park because the climb to the cemetery is rugged and the day was hot).   

"Eighty-five people streamed through the gate where some had previously been denied access, climbing steep and treacherous rubble, surrounded by a scene of utter desecration, to the little island of green at the summit," said Heartwood organizer Andy Mahler.  Heartwood and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition organized and hosted the Healing Mountains Conference.

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. Scientist Mel Tyree read Chief Seattles 1854 statement (the statement is attributed to Chief Seattle, but was likely written by a Hollywood screenwriter) in memory of his friend Lone Wolf, who had planned to read the statement at the Stover Cemetery memorial before he died just a month earlier.  After other speakers, 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," Mahler said. "We made a vow that together we would forever end the practice known as mountaintop removal coal mining."

 
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth's Teri Blanton is set for the trek to Stover Cemetery with her "Coal is Crippling Kentucky" t-shirt.
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth's Teri Blanton is set for the trek to Stover Cemetery with her "Coal is Crippling Kentucky" t-shirt.

The crowd leaves Stanely Hiers park on Kayford Mountain and sets out for the mine entrance.
The crowd leaves Stanely Hiers park on Kayford Mountain and sets out for the mine entrance.

The view from the road gives the a glimpse of the devastation.
The view from the road gives the a glimpse of the devastation.

At the mine gate, people crowd the guards in order to sign the forms that will let us on site.
At the mine gate, people crowd the guards in order to sign the forms that will let us on site.

At the mine gate, a Cleveland-based film crew working for documentary film-maker Mari-Lyn Evans wonders about ok'ing their work to film a "conference." This just isn't like the conferences in Ohio.
At the mine gate, a Cleveland-based film crew working for documentary film-maker Mari-Lyn Evans wonders about ok'ing their work to film a "conference." This just isn't like the conferences in Ohio.

Still milling about at the mine gate. Hmm, nice patch of green there, eh? That is supposed to substitute for the most biologically diverse temperate hardwood forest of earth?
Still milling about at the mine gate. Hmm, nice patch of green there, eh? That is supposed to substitute for the most biologically diverse temperate hardwood forest of earth?

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