Strip Mining In Appalachia


Strip Mining is a form of coal extraction that falls under the umbrella of surface mining. As opposed to conventional mining practices where coal miners travel deep underground leaving the surface intact while removing coal, strip mining is performed by removing earthen materials, known as overburden, and then xextracting coal seams. One other major difference between these two forms of mining is that strip mining uses significantly less human labor than deep mining and relies heavily on large machinery. Disturbance of the Earth’s surface, which can adversely impact environmental quality and public health, and economic implications of a smaller workforce combined with externalized operating costs have made strip mining controversial since around World War II. Due to a loophole in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMACRA), a new form of strip mining known as mountaintop removal became prolific, especially beginning in the late 1990s. Mountaintop removal, often referred to as strip mining on steroids, is currently the most commonly employed and devastating form of surface mining in Appalachia. Mountaintop removal, or mountaintop mining in industry terminology, is carried out by using large amounts of ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) to blow up to 500 feet off the top of a mountain and uses large earth-moving equipment to separate overburden from coal and then to create a valley fill. Surface mining, strip mining, and mountaintop removal are terms that are often incorrectly used interchangeably.

This pathfinder focuses on the history of strip mining in Appalachia including grass roots resistance, cultural and environmental impact, and to a lesser extent, coal industry depictions of strip mining and its impact on Appalachia.

Introductory Text: 

The best general source that serves as a brief introductory for strip mining is:
Abramson, Rudy, and Jean Haskell. “Strip Miners” Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006. Pg 595.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Strip Mining
  • Strip Mining - Appalachian Region
  • Strip Mining - Appalachian Region- Public Opinion
  • Strip mining - Economic aspects
  • Strip mining - Environmental aspects
  • Strip mining - Environmental aspects - Appalachian Region
  • Strip mining - Environmental aspects - Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Strip mining - Government policy - United States
  • Mountaintop removal mining - Environmental aspects - Appalachian Region

Also Relevant:

  • Coal mines and mining - Appalachian Region.
  • Strip mining - Environmental aspects - United States
  • Strip mining - Economic aspects - United States

More General:

  • Appalachian Region - Environmental conditions
  • Environmental degradation - Appalachian Region
  • Environmental awareness - Appalachian Region
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Strip Mining
  • Coal Mines and Mining
  • Mines and Mineral Resources
  • Environment
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • TN291
  • TN805.W4
  • Z6738.S7
  • HD9547
  • TD195

Montrie, Chad. To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. TD195.S75 M56 2003

Reece, Erik. Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness : Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006. TD195.S75 R43 2006

Burns, Shirley S. Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal Surface Coal Mining on Southern West Virginia Communities, 1970-2004. West Virginia and Appalachia, v. 5. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press, 2007. TN805.W4 B87 2007

Goodell, Jeff. Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2006. TN805.A5 G665 2006

Rowe, James E. Coal Surface Mining, Impacts of Reclamation. (Westview Special Studies in Natural Resources and Energy Management. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979. Print. TD195.C58 C62

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Butler, Tom, and George Wuerthner. Plundering Appalachia: The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining. San Rafael, CA: Earth Aware, 2009. TN805.A5 P57 2009.


Munn, Robert F. Strip Mining: An Annotated Bibliography. Morgantown: West Virginia University Library, 1973. Z6738.S7 M85.

Tompkins, Dorothy L. C. C. Strip Mining for Coal. Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, 1973. Z5863.S7 T65.


Appalachian Journal. Boone, N.C.: Appalachian Journal, 1972. F216.2 .A66.

Journal of Appalachian Studies. Morgantown, WV: Published by the Regional Research Institute, West Virginia University for the Appalachian Studies Association, 1995. F106 .J74.

Coal Age. Overland Park, Kan: Intertec Pub. Corp, 1996. WNCLN Online access.

International Journal of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Environment. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema, 1994. Print. WNCLN Online access.


The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement. US Department of the Interior. Available from

I Love Mountains. Appalachian Voices. Available from

Ward, Ken Jr. Coal Tattoo: Mining’s Mark on Our World. The Charleston Gazette. Available from

Audio and Video Sources: 

Morton, Frances, and Gene Dubey. Strip Mining: Energy, Environment, and Economics. Whitesburg, Ky: Appalshop, 1979. VC204.

Geller, Phylis, and Mari-Lynn Evans. Coal Country. United States: Evening Star Productions, 2009. DVDisc290.

Novack, David, Richard Hankin, Sam Henriques, Scott Shelley, and Badawi. Burning the Future: Coal in America. S.l.: American Coal Productions, 2008. DVDisc182.

Stripmining in Appalachia. S.l.: Appalachian Film Workshop, 1973. VC361.

To Raise the Dead and Bury the Living: Strip Mining / Save Our Kentucky. the Blackey School Situation. United States?: s.n, 1970. VC543.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Rebekah Epling, 30 November 2010