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Environmental History Essay

1468 words - 6 pages

History 124
7 November 2012
Coal Power and the Upper Big Branch Mining Disaster
Coal was a major energy source for the United States throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries during the Industrial Revolution ( Even though it was a major energy source, coal has caused many problems with the environment and the people of the United States. Many disasters have occurred because of the safety regulations of coal mines. The safety regulations and conditions of coal mines have caused harm to people through death and poverty and has caused harm to the environment through pollution of the air and water over the years.

The history of where coal was mined can help us ...view middle of the document...

The large amounts of coal that were beneath the Earth in the Appalachia Mountains attracted investors there in the late nineteenth century (extracting 113). Population in the area surged between 1850 and 1880 making the farming of the land in an ecologically viable manner almost impossible (extracting 114). Since farmland started decreasing because of the population surge, farmers began to seek wage work to make more money (extracting 114). Finding wage work was easy in this area. Capitalists came into the area and harvested areas that were once a swamp in the mountains into a coal mines (extracting 114). The coal fields in Appalachia extended over 72,000 square miles (extracting 114). The one good thing about the coal fields was that they were easy to mine (extracting 114). To mine the coal all one had to do was follow the seams from the surface along the contour of the mountain (extracting 114). During this time the standard of living in Appalachia was declining (extracting 114). Many people worked on the farm and mined to make money to support their families (extracting 114). It became really hard for the people of Appalachia to be full-time miners and part-time farmers (extracting 114). “As company towns and mining camps colonized the desirable bottom-lands, farmer, already beset by more people than available land, had to squeeze over,” (extracting 114). Since farmers had to go up the mountains to farm because of coal mines many farmers met their death (extracting 114). For example, on May 30, 1927 a flash flood in Kentucky’s Cumberland Plateau caused one hundred mountaineers to die (extracting 115). The mining in the Appalachia Mountains caused more problems than it created successes. Many people were forced out of their normal routines because of the miners coming in and it ultimately killed many farmers.
There are many effects from mining that cause harm to the environment and people involved. The effects can be seen in the harm of people mining the Appalachia Mountains and in the Upper Big Branch mining disaster. The air qualities near mining areas are affected the worst. Airborne particles are a big problem. Through the extraction process many airborne particles are released. Explosives and exhaust from the heavy equipment being used to mine are released into the air through the extraction process. The water quality in areas of mining are also affected. Acidic discharges are a huge problem in mining areas. One acidic discharge that is dangerous is the acid rock drainage from waste rock and tailing piles containing naturally occurring sulfides. Acid mine drainage from water percolating through abandoned mines are also dangerous to the water quality in mining areas. There are also just general environmental impacts of mining. One major impact is resource degradation. This includes subsidence, unstable piles, and vegetation and habitat destruction. The destruction of vegetation and habitat can be seen with...

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