Appalachians are a mess. Thanks Coal

Surface coal mining, including mountaintop removal mining, was responsible for the clearing of more than 7 percent of the land in central Appalachia — or an area about three times the size of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — from the mid-1970s through 2015, according to new research.

A total of almost 2,300 square miles of land in central Appalachia was cleared by surface mining during this period. Mountaintop removal, the most controversial type of surface mining, relies on cutting off the peaks of mountains to access the mineral below.

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