"Look up there what it looks like," Charles Bella said of the mountaintop-removal mine near his home in Blair, West Virginia. "It's been 12 years now since that's been reclaimed, and it still looks like a bomb hit it." | Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures Bella parked his Ford beside his house the day he got laid off from his last coal mining job in 1999 and hasn't driven it since. "All my work clothes and stuff still's in it," he said. "Ol' greasy coverall and all." | Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures

Charles Bella
Blair, West Virginia

People think that this mountaintop mining just moves on down the road quickly, but it's not that way. We took out about 14 seams of coal here, and it took six, seven years to do it. No idea how much coal they pulled out. Millions and millions of tons. Somebody made some money. Oh yeah.

From '94 up to '99, it was so dusty around here you couldn't hardly stand it. It got to the point you couldn't sit on your porch. You'd even have to take the pets in the house. And then you had all the noise from the equipment--backup horns, all that--24 hours a day. That was right back there the top of this ridge. It was a manmade hell here.

My mom and dad, they lived right here beside of me. They put their life savings in their house, and then because of the mountaintop mining, they only enjoyed it for three or four years before they had to pack up and leave. I worked in the mines. I didn't like the underground because I was always afraid of the top fallin'. I worked on the mountaintop mine. That comes back and haunts me to this day. I was part of destroying my own community. (Interviewed May 29, 2012)

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