Social Dynamics of Surface Mining Impacts in Eastern Kentucky

Authors: Buddhi Gyawali*, Kentucky State University, Neelam Chandra Poudyal , University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Perception, Mountain Environments
Keywords: Appalachian, Coal, Environment, reclamation, surface mining
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the Appalachia, mountaintop removal for surface coal mining has disturbed natural ecosystems. People in the Appalachian region, who depend primarily on the land for their livelihoods, have faced numerous challenges during and after the completion of surface mining operations. Reclaimed lands have not been well-managed or are underutilized for alternative income-earning operations. Most of these lands go through heavy run-off in the early stages of reclamation, affecting soil, drainage, ecosystems, and the microclimate. We surveyed Appalachian residents on their perceived impacts of surface mining and reclamation efforts, demographics, place characteristics, and trust of government, non-government institutions, and mining industries. The regression analysis results suggest residents in eastern Kentucky view mining as part of the community identity and that surface mining has positive impacts on their communities. They believe reclamation efforts have been successful and disagree with the contention that surface mining has negatively impacted their surroundings. Demographic attributes such as age, gender, income, and trust in institutions have a significant relationship with positive perception of the impacts of surface mining and reclamation efforts. The study suggests for the need to collect and analyze micro-level data on environmental indicators to examine impacts of mining on environmental health and quality of life of the people in Appalachia. Implications of results in understanding the social dimensions of surface mining and reclamation efforts in the current and post-mining communities will contribute to case-specific (i.e. Appalachia) contextual understanding of the surface mining related environmental and health debates with empirical and scientific bases.

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