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Yet some residents fought back against the new mining practices by forming Coal River Mountain Watch.
Coal River Mountain Watch has provided a forum for female activists who were often silenced under older union-led activism.
I decided to start working for Coal River Mountain Watch.
After a series of protests and rallies outside the coal prep plant, members of Coal River Mountain Watch met with West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin on June 22, 2005, to voice their concerns about the school.
It's my feeling that the state government can't acknowledge the dangers of having a prep plant so close to an elementary school because they would be acknowledging the bigger issue that coal extraction and processing are threatening communities' health overall," says Hillary Hosta, an organizer for Coal River Mountain Watch.
One of only three staffers at Coal River Mountain Watch, she also organizes protests, lobbies at the state capitol, and answers the constantly ringing phone.
When we first started out, people would come through the back door," says Janice Nease, the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch.
Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, pointed out that many of the victims of MTR are schoolchildren.
Coal River Mountain Watch, Box 18, Whitesville, WV 25209; (304) 854-2182.
The West Virginia-based Coal River Mountain Watch works to prevent such disasters and has recently focused its efforts primarily on "mountaintop removal" mining operations, which blast off the tops of peaks to get at underlying coal deposits.
The DEP should have gone back and checked the maps," said Sarah Holtam of Coal River Mountain Watch, a nonprofit based in Coal River Valley, the region where the school is located.