FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Andrew Munn or Dea Goblirsch 304-513-4710
CHARLESTON, W.Va.- Fifteen participants between the ages of 50 and 83 set off on a Senior Citizen’s March to End Mountaintop Removal at 10 a.m. this morning. The march was preceded by a rally and press conference in front of the State Capitol building, and is sponsored by a coalition that includes Climate Ground Zero, Mountain Justice, Intergenerational Justice and Christians for the Mountains. It is part of an ongoing civil disobedience campaign against mountaintop removal in West Virginia.
The seniors are walking five miles each day for five days, ending at Massey subsidiary Mammoth Coal on Monday, Oct. 12. In a statement issued by the US Mine Safety & Health Administration yesterday, Mammoth Coal was named as one of ten mining operators that need to improve performance or face tougher enforcement.
The mountaintop removal mine and processing plant, formerly operated by Cannelton Coal, was bought out by Massey in 2004. Massey cut the United Mine Workers of America contract and reopened the site, located east of Charleston on Route 60, as the non-union Mammoth Coal Company. The decision was met with a UMWA-organized picket and lawsuits.
“Mountaintop removal is closing in on our home place in Coal River, destroying the ridge up and down the river,” said Julian Martin, 73, a coal miner’s son and Vice President of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, “I see mountaintop removal as probably the world’s worst environmental disaster.” Martin’s grandfather fought in the largest organized labor uprising in United States history, the Battle of Blair Mountain.
March organizers Roland Micklem, 81, and Andrew Munn, 23, are planning activities and speaking events each evening, including talks by Larry Gibson of the Keepers of the Mountain Foundation and Jesse Johnson, 2004 and 2008 Green Party gubernatorial candidate at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charleston on Friday and Saturday night.
“We seniors need to make a statement with our own actions and share the risks that are part of this ongoing effort to stop the obliteration of West Virginia’s mountains,” said Micklem, a Korean War veteran and former environmental journalist. His organizing philosophy is rooted in Ghandian principles of nonviolent civil disobedience and dialogue with opposition; the energetic senior invited Massey Energy officials to speak with him at the gates of Mammoth Coal Company on Monday. Micklem has not yet received a response.
“As a young person, it is inspiring to see the strength with which senior citizens are stepping forward to meet the task at hand,” said Munn, “Climate justice and the preservation of ecological and cultural heritage are issues for all generations, so I think it is fitting that we see this coalition emerging at the forefront of the movement to stop mountaintop removal.”
Friday’s portion of the March will leave at 10 a.m. from the Poorboy’s Market, located at 4008 Malden Dr. in Charleston.
Updates and multimedia can be found on http://www.climategroundzero.org