Environment: The Price of Strip Mining

The bleakest landscape in the U.S. can be found where miners have torn away the earth's surface to get at coal deposits. Huge piles of gray debris, aptly called "orphan soil banks," stand like gravestones over land so scarred and acidic that only rodents can live there. The sight is not rare. Using dynamite, bulldozers, great augers and earth movers, working on the surface rather than below ground, strip miners now produce 37% of the nation's annual coal output. They have already ripped up more than 1,800,000 acres. By 1980, if present trends...

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