Images showing the impacts of various aspects of mining, transporting, processing and burning coal.
Coal Mining - Hunter Valley, Australia
9 Photos Coal strip mining in the Upper Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia, one of the world's major coal-producing regions. Australia is the world's largest coal exporter. Notable mines within the regaion include Coal & Allied's Mount Thorley Warkworth operation and Xstrata's Mount Owen mine. Coal mining is growing rapidly in this region, formerly known for farmland and vineyards, that stretches roughly 50km from the town of Muswellbrook in the north, to beyond Singleton in the south.
Coal Combustion Waste Disposal
18 Photos Coal combustion waste (CCW) is the fly-ash and other residue left over from burning coal. It typically contains toxic components, such as heavy metals, that are known carcinogens. CCW is disposed of in landfills, dumped (legally!) in old mines and quarries, and stored onsite at coal-fired power plants in large impoundments. In December 2008, one such impoundment failed at the power plant in Kingston, Tennessee, spilling over 1.1 billion gallons of toxic fly-ash sludge into neighboring communities and the Clinch and Emory Rivers - two important sources of drinking water.
We looked at 11 coal-fired power plants operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority to assess the risk that CCW impoundments could be breached by flooding. Using Google Earth, we located the power plants, delineated what we think are on-site CCW impoundments, then overlaid the Stay-Dry flood dataset from FEMA that shows areas of high flood risk. We found two clear instances where impoundments are located within areas mapped as high-risk for flooding, and another example where the FEMA data are missing, but it's reasonable to infer that the impoundments are in an area of high risk.
UPDATE 12/23/09: We've added four new image-maps of the Kingston coal-ash sludge spill that happened exactly one year ago. The images show the area directly impacted by spilled sludge, as seen on aerial survey photographs taken before the spill in 2007, and after the spill on December 2008, March 2009, and October 2009 (courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority). These photos reveal that nearly 200 acres of land and water were directly affected by sludge, and 102 acres of ponds and waterways are still buried by sludge deposits (possibly a permanent condition at this point in time). These images don't reveal the downstream impacts of sludge moving through the Emory and Clinch River systems, so the true area of impact is likely much larger.
For more information:
Coal combstion waste
Kingston, Tennessee fly-ash spill
FEMA Stay-Dry flood data (a Google Earth file)
Tennessee Valley Authority
West Virginia Mountaintop Removal
9 Photos Mountaintop Removal Mining
CREATED 6/22/06: Satellite and aerial images showing the impacts and extent of "mountaintop removal" coal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. UPDATE 9/12/06: Three new images added, 12"x9" at 200dpi.
Coal Storage, Seward, Alaska
8 Photos Images showing coal storage piles in the city of Seward, Alaska. Environmental groups claim dust blowing off the coal piles endangers the health of local residents, and have filed suit to force corrective actions. We've mapped the locations of nearby schools and a residential unit to show their proximity to the source of the coal dust. Click on the thumbnail images to take a virtual tour.