Seven protesters were arrested yesterday during a protest at the Marfork mining complex.
More than 75 residents of the Coal River Valley picketed the entrance to the Massey-owned Marfork mining complex yesterday at noon in protest to the company’s plans to set off explosives just 100-feet from the Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment.
The demonstration began with a prayer and sermon by Bob “Sage” Russo, of Christians for the Mountains. Referencing the Sermon on the Mount, he called upon citizens to be stewards of the Earth and to move towards sustainable, stable jobs, according to a prepared statement from protest organizers.
Protestors stood in front of the gates of the mine facility with signs reading, “7 billion spilled, 998 killed.”
“Passersby on Route 3 were overwhelming supportive with honks, waves, and thumbs up signs,” Rock Creek resident Julia Sendor reportedly said.
During the protest, seven people approached the entrance to the dam facility and the Whitesville detachment of the West Virginia State Police asked them to leave. When the seven refused, the State Police arrested them. Bail was reportedly set at $2,000 per person.
After the arrests, former U.S. Congressman Ken Hechler, a longtime opponent of strip mining, gave a speech, underscoring the responsibility of citizens to safeguard their freedoms and stand up for their rights.
The protest came just hours after activists carried out two non-violent direct actions to protest mountaintop removal and coal sludge impoundments.
This morning, at the Marfork facility, two people wearing hazmat suits and respirators were arrested after boating onto the Brushy Fork impoundment and floating a banner that read, “No More Toxic Sludge.” State Police charged the activists with littering and misdemeanor trespass and transported them to the Southern Regional Jail. Their bail has been set at $2,000.
At another action, six activists hung a “Never Again” banner and chained themselves to a massive dump truck on a Patriot Coal-owned mountaintop removal mine on Kayford Mountain. State Police arrived on site to find three people chained to the main axle of the truck and three others chained outside the truck’s cab. The police removed the six activists, who, along with two others supporting them, were transported to the Madison County Courthouse, where they were reportedly processed and released.
The toxic lake at Brushy Fork dam sits atop a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines. Massey Energy’s own filings with the state Department of Environmental Protection project a minimum death toll of 998 should the seven-billion-gallon dam break. Floodwaters would reach 38.78 feet in height in the town of Peytona, 26.61 miles downstream, within three hours and fifteen minutes of breakage.
“I fear for my friends and all the people living below this coal sludge dam,” said Gary Anderson, who lives on the mountain near the site. “Blasting beside the dam, over underground mines, could decimate the valley for miles. The ‘experts’ said that the Buffalo Creek sludge dam was safe, but it failed. They said that the TVA sludge dam was safe, but it failed. Massey is setting up an even greater catastrophe here.”