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Mountain near Rawl, West Virginia. Appalachian Voices flight courtesy of SouthWings. Photo by Kent Kessinger.

Mountain near Rawl, West Virginia. Appalachian Voices flight courtesy of SouthWings. Photo by Kent Kessinger.

Mountaintop removal mining is one of the world's most environmentally destructive practices, and it is most associated with coal mining in West Virginia's Appalachian Mountains. Whole mountaintops are removed to get to the coal, which increases erosion and runoff thick with pollutants, poisoning streams and rivers throughout the region.

The 15 most toxic places to live

Mountaintop removal mining is one of the world's most environmentally destructive practices, and it is most associated with coal mining in West Virginia's Appalachian Mountains. Whole mountaintops are removed to get to the coal, which increases erosion and runoff thick with pollutants, poisoning streams and rivers throughout the region.

A community in Wise County, Virginia sits at the base of a mountaintop removal coal

A community in Wise County, Virginia sits at the base of a mountaintop removal coal

A mountain top removal mining operation sprawls over Guyandotte Mountain, West Virginia. This mountain's summit has been reformed and deformed, ...

A mountain top removal mining operation sprawls over Guyandotte Mountain, West Virginia. This mountain's summit has been reformed and deformed, ...

President Barack Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry just received a letter from 10 Nobel Laureates from across the world calling on them to do everything in their power to stop Keystone XL and get to work on climate change.

President Barack Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry just received a letter from 10 Nobel Laureates from across the world calling on them to do everything in their power to stop Keystone XL and get to work on climate change.

This is Lake Baikal. The lake is remarkable for more than just its remote Siberian location: It is believed to be both the oldest freshwater lake on the planet, at more than 25 million years of age, and the deepest, at 5,250 feet (1,600 meters). For some perspective, the average depth of open ocean is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) -- so this is a freshwater lake as deep as the black waters of the ocean's bathypelagic zone, the realm of giant squid and their adversaries the sperm whales.

This is Lake Baikal. The lake is remarkable for more than just its remote Siberian location: It is believed to be both the oldest freshwater lake on the planet, at more than 25 million years of age, and the deepest, at 5,250 feet (1,600 meters). For some perspective, the average depth of open ocean is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) -- so this is a freshwater lake as deep as the black waters of the ocean's bathypelagic zone, the realm of giant squid and their adversaries the sperm whales.

Mountaintop removal at Oven Fork, near WhitesburMountaintop removal at Oven Fork, near Whitesburg (Letcher County, KY)

Mountaintop removal at Oven Fork, near WhitesburMountaintop removal at Oven Fork, near Whitesburg (Letcher County, KY)

Mountain top removal mining in Tennessee

Mountain top removal mining in Tennessee

View of Arch Mineral Corporation's mountaintop removal and reclamation project, the Samples Mine on Cabin Creek

View of Arch Mineral Corporation's mountaintop removal and reclamation project, the Samples Mine on Cabin Creek

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