Coal Companies Seek to Destroy Historic Blair Mountain Battleground

Where I live, lies, intimidation, and corruption are a part of the status quo, and it appears as though, yet again, coal companies may be getting away with using their high dollar lawyers and underhanded, dishonest tactics to destroy an important part of American, Appalachian, and labor history.

  • Research has indicated that at least two objectors on the Jackson & Kelly list (the one accepted by Carol Shull) were deceased, one for over twenty years. When contacted about the deceased, Susan Pierce of WV SHPO stated, “We cannot confirm or deny that there are no deceased on the SPHO list dated May 21, 2009.”[i]
  • Because of the delisting, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will not enforce the National Historic Preservation Act. The battlefield’s eligibility status is of no consequence to state agencies.
  • As a result, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources have damaged areas of the Blair Mountain Battlefield. Arch Coal has crossed over into the 1,669 acres on their Bumbo №2 Surface Mine and Alpha Natural Resources has damaged areas of the battlefield on their Camp Branch Surface Mine.
  • FOBM has documented specific defensive entrenchments and earthworks that were bulldozed and clear cut on the Camp Branch Permit. These are areas which would have been under protection of the National Historic Preservation Act had it not been for the “arbitrary and capricious” delisting of the battlefield. Because of the delisting, portions of the battlefield, and of our own history, have been permanently destroyed.
  • FOBM attempted to hold the coal companies accountable for these surface disturbances and took our case to the West Virginia Surface Mine Board on December 9, 2013 and on September 8, 2014. While the Surface Mine Board did rule that further archeological surveys are necessary to determine areas of significance before mining should occur, these disturbances were not deemed a violation of law. The delisting ensured that no one will be held accountable for the deliberate destruction of our cultural heritage.
  • Because of our opposition to the destruction of this battlefield, members of FOBM, including myself, have endured death threats, been threatened with guns, have had their mail opened, had their computers hacked, been followed by unmarked, black SUVs, and have faced additional professional and personal obstacles. No one should have their personal safety and professional careers threatened and their personal privacy violated for wanting to preserve cultural heritage. Yet, this is exactly what has happened to those who support the preservation of this battlefield. The real tragedy is that none of these threats and invasions of privacy would have occurred had the battlefield remained on the National Register.
Interview with “Mine Wars” historian, Professor Chuck Keeney

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