622: Lost Mountain by Erik Reece

by Gerard


622.2920974: Reece, Erik. Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness—Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia. New York: Riverhead, 2006. 243 pp. ISBN 978-1-59448-236-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 620: Engineering
  • 622: Mining and related operations
  • 622.2: Excavation techniques
  • 622.29: Surface and underwater mining
  • 622.292: Surface mining
  • +0974: Northeastern United States

Erik Reece’s Lost Mountain is a no-holds-barred vilification of current mountaintop removal coal mining practices. He follows the course of several businesses who purchase and re-sell the permit to strip mine Lost Mountain in Eastern Kentucky from September 2003 to September 2004. Along the way, he reports on past court cases involving mining companies, how the law is bent to accommodate mining practices, and whether there are real, useful, sustainable ways to extract coal from mountains.

His clandestine tracking of coal mining operations gives the reader a different perspective on the industry and while his rhetoric is decidedly anti-business, he is not totally against the idea of collecting coal for power. The problem is that the book is overwhelmingly sad. From a month-by-month discussion of how Lost Mountain is basically removed from the map to vignette after vignette of families and communities that do not have the money or the methods to fight back while groundwater is poisoned and homes are flooded by mining runoff, this will get your invective juices flowing.

The book itself reads fast (I blew through it in an afternoon at the bookstore) but it lingers with you for much longer. It has echoes of Carson’s Silent Spring and many of the eco-conservation books that followed. Even if they support current practices, anybody who cares about how businesses interact with their surrounding environment and communities should read this one.