Formation of the

  Coal Mining
  Mountaintop Removal
  Electricity from
    coal burning

  Reforming mountaintop

  Solid waste disposal
  Deep mining of coal
  Coal, people, politics,
    and money


Quarries       West-east. In western states huge stone quarries are commonplace; it's called hard-rock mining, often leaving huge pits. Back east, in Kentucky, by 1998 non-coal surface mining existed at 204 permitted sites, 123 of which were limestone quarries, and all sites, together, covered 33,729 acres.   More information can be found at

     West Virginia. In West Virginia about one hundred quarries, covering approximately 10,000 acres, are mined for a lesser variety of rocks and minerals than out west. More information can be found at Here limestone, sandstone, shale, chert, flint, gravel, and sand are the main resources mined.  In the past iron and manganese were taken from the earth.

      The present state statute was substantially rewritten in 2000. It regulates extraction of "minerals" (excluding coal), meaning "clay, flagstone, gravel, sand, limestone, sandstone, shale, chert, flint, dolomite, manganese, sandstone, slate, iron ore and any other metal or metallurgical ore."   [W. Va. Code sec. 22-4-2].  The state's DEP is charged with enforcing the statute and has implementing regulations [Title 38, Series 2B].. 

    Evolution of quarries. In the early 20th century limestone was quarried mostly by hand and the available machinery was steam-driven.  Then 50 men could produce 500 tons of gravel a day, but today 10 to 20 workers can produce 5,000 tons per day.   Earlier, most quarries were short-lived but now they are around for decades.

      Compared with early days, mines are noisier, dustier, larger, and located closer to population centers.  Some quarries are open-pit, others are in tunnels.  In 1997 16 million tons of non-coal rocks and minerals were extracted from West Virginia mountains, most of which went for use in roads, buildings, bridges, and other public structures.  By far the largest user is the state of West Virginia which maintains about 35,000 miles of roads. 

      Anyone who has traveled to Elkins in the last several decades and has seen the unreclaimed Century Limestone quarry or who has passed the Greer limestone facility outside Morgantown is familiar with the scarred landscape left by quarries. The Eastern Panhandle counties know the effects of quarries quite well. Blasting and dust are voiced as complaints by residents near these quarries -- the same kind of complaints as are associated with mountaintop removal mines. A Pocohontas County quarry's planned expansion in 1999 - 2000, not far from Snowshoe resort, has proved to be a focal point for controversy, pitting an extractive industry against the state's preeminent tourist recreational attraction.

     Statutory reform.  Positive aspects of the 2000 state statute include blasting restrictions, pre-blasting surveys, broad authority for WVDEP to deny permits, public participation in the permitting process, groundwater monitoring, water replacement, grandfathering of disturbed areas only, and a buffer zone of 25 feet.

       Weaknesses include fees too small to fund the program, less than stringent bonding requirements, and a 5-acre quarry exemption. Citizen lawsuits seeking mandamus are allowed when the Director fails to discharge mandatory duties specified in W.Va. Code section 22-4-8. If a quarry operator damages "property of others," treble damages may be recovered by the affected party in a lawsuit.
Last updated on Thursday, September 28, 2000