Mountaintop mine restoration: Land ethics and sustainability in the mining landscape
The topic of this paper concerns the Appalachian region and their approach to land reuse after mining operations conclude. The primary location under specific investigation includes the coal fields of West Virginia, a state with a rich coal mining heritage. West Virginia is a leader in coal production for the United States, but with renewable power sources and clean energy on the rise, the state’s economy has suffered decline. This then leads to the following questions: How can mountain top removal restoration in West Virginia be possible after years of decimation? Can a restoration plan provide an alternative regional identity that also reflects the regional history, and how can the local community become a stakeholder and benefit from the restoration process? The central part of West Virginia is the primary mined using mountaintop removal method, and Lost Creek is the landscape focus to consider a reuse of land decimated by generations of mining. The research examines and evaluates the effectiveness of similar recent case studies conducted in other countries such as the Lusatia region in Germany. In addition, the following methodologies are conducted: discussion with mining operations and reclamation companies in order to better understand the current mining processes, exploring the Lost Creek site through observational strategies and interviewing individuals living within these mining communities. This research leads to an architectural intervention that can serve as an educational opportunity for land reuse within the state of West Virginia. The envisioned proposed design will help aid in the community discussion about a new community identity inclusive of economic opportunities for these diminishing communities. The goal is to allow these communities to flourish and be rebuilt.