As the mining industry clears mountains in Appalachia, a nearby town finds itself in a conundrum over the future of coal, writes John McQuaid in Smithsonian magazine. With prices and energy demands soaring, mining sites are multiplying—and while some residents see the state’s oldest and most profitable industry as part of their livelihood, others are headed to court to stop it.
Ansted, W. Virginia, has become “an improbable battleground in the struggle to meet the nation's rising energy needs,” writes McQuaid. Mountaintop mining means no longer simply drilling into mountains, but demolishing them. With cancer cases rising and eco-systems evaporating, opponents of the practice accuse the industry of skirting laws and scaring away tourists. To “see that mountain disappear, really, really hurts," laments one local.