(02/09/2005)

Mountaintop removal has virtually eliminated
the town of Blair WV (bottom right)

By Bob Weaver

Dozens of small West Virgina towns and communities have suffered, been wiped-out or forced to sell to coal companies that have moved their operations within a "rock throw" of their homes.

Coal corporations have convinced their workforce and politicians that jobs will be eliminated if such communities, the rivers and streams are protected from such encroachment.

One night last summer, in the coalfields of Virginia, three-year-old Jeremy Davidson was crushed to death in his bed by a rock that weighed 1,000 pounds.

It had been dislodged by a bulldozer at a strip-mining site high above his home.

Jeremy Davidson's parents filed a lawsuit for wrongful death. Virginia's state mining agency accused the coal company of gross negligence.

Last week lawmakers approved new coal mining regulations as the boy's death continues to shock and sadden the community of Wise County, VA.

Dennis and Cindy Davidson say they moved to the small town of Appalachia, VA. because they wanted a quiet place in the country to raise Jeremy and his older brother, Zachery.

Then came the coal development and the mountain top removal was right above their house.

They say noise from coal trucks on nearby roads and jarring blasts from mining operations ended their peaceful nights.

An A & G Coal Corporation bulldozer crew was improving a road at the edge of the hillside. It has been legal to work on a strip mine that close to a house or village and to work at night.

After the boy's death, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy says it was gross negligence.

A & G Coal officials declined to discuss the specifics, but a worker for the company said "We hate that it happened. It was an accident."


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