In West Virginia and across Appalachia, any type of major development requires the natural landscape be altered. The mountainous terrain provides little land naturally suited to development.
The natural landscape of West Virginia can be characterized usually as a narrow valley floor --between 100 and 1000 feet wide -- surrounded by steep mountainsides that are often a 50-degree slope or more.
What this means is that any development is naturally limited by the landscape.
Overcoming this limiting factor is an expensive undertaking. Moving the amount of earth necessary to build a road, a shopping center, a school or an industrial park requires an investment of hundreds of thousands, if not millions ,of dollars before construction of the facility or the road even begins.
At right is a partial list of facilities either located on former mine lands or in the process of construction. The sites run the gamut of development, including everything from golf courses to hospitals, from schools to industrial parks and from prisons to residential areas. The businesses and facilities located on these sites provide literally thousands of good, quality jobs. These are jobs that would likely not have existed without the land provided at low if any cost by the coal industry.
Some critics of surface mining claim that little of the land used for surface mines is potentially developable. However a look at any of the land use plans of coalfield counties shows this claim is simply not valid.
For example, according to the Logan County Land Use Plan, approximately 65 percent of the surface mine sites in the county are within five miles of a four-lane highway. These sites are also close to air transportation and are within a day’s drive of most of the East Coast.
These sites have the potential to be very attractice to economic development, but the post-mine land use also includes residential, educational and recreational uses. As is shown in the list at right, there are many examples of residential, educational and recreational development on these sites.
In West Virginia, the little hollows along which most people live often flood, wiping away lives and life’s work in just minutes. Like industrial and commercial development, the people of West Virginia build their homes along these little hollows because there are no other good options. Building a home on a 50 degree slop is nearly impossible and building on the mountaintop requires providing your own access and utilities.
Former mine lands can be configured for residential development. At Bright Mountain in Nicholas County, a former mine site provides home sites for more than 100 homes. In Weirton, almost 80 percent of the community is on former mine lands. In Eastern Kentucky, entire towns are relocating to former mine lands in order to escape the constant flooding.
The calculation is a simple one -- West Virginia needs to diversity its economy. In order to do that, the state needs readily developable lands. Surface mining provides that developable land. Therefore surface mine lands fulfill a need the state has to provide good quality, high paying jobs today and in the future.
Examples of Development on Former Mine Lands
King Coal Highway/Coalfields Expressway and Industrial Park (McDowell County, Mingo County and others in southern West Virginia)
Federal Prison (McDowell County
The Highlands/Cabela’s (Wheeling)
Aquaculture – Raising Fish (Mingo County)
Columbia Wood Products (Nicholas County)
Bright Mountain (Nicholas County)
Wood Products (Mingo County)
Twisted Gun Golf Course (Mingo County)
Pete Dye Golf Course (Harrison County)
Southwest Regional Jail (Logan County)
Logan Airport (Logan)
Robert C. Byrd High School (Harrison County)
Mount View High School (McDowell County)
Several Shopping Malls
New Hope Village
Anker Sports Complex (Monongalia County)
Beckley YMCA Soccer Complex (Raleigh County)
FBI Complex (Harrison County)
Proposed High School along King Coal Highway
Proposed Airport along King Coal Highway (Mingo County)
Knights of Columbus Community Park (Tucker County)
Davis Cemetery (Monongalia)