Strip mines, poverty and rural communities made up the countryside of Southeastern Ohio in 1970, an era when environmental awareness was emerging, but just. The Environmental Protection Agency had been established in December of 1970, but no formal policies or regulations had been put into place at the time these photographs were taken. Prior to this period surface or strip mining was basically unregulated by State or Federal agencies and the Coal Industry did as they pleased with little or no oversight. Once the coal had been mined, either by shaft or surface mines, owners abandoned the sites and departed with little or no consideration for the environment. Reclamation of the land to its prior state was also in its infancy and acres of land were left to waste and be forgotten Driving through the rural countryside it didn’t take long before you would run across mountains of waste material, discarded equipment and dilapidated structures that were disintegrating. Everything was just left behind by the Industry for future generations to deal with.
At the time, mining towns were and had been for the previous 100 years very much part of the local economy and families lived and died by their existence. It was a boom or bust reality and a tough life for those in this economically depressed and poverty-ridden region. Changes were difficult and the alternatives few for those who remained once the mines were exhausted and closed down.
These images document individuals and families who worked the mines and lived in the surrounding Ohio countryside. It was a bleak and hard environment yet all those whose paths I crossed were warm and welcoming and did not object to my intrusions. In the ensuing 40 years much has improved for the countryside and living standards for the local folks living in the region. Through implementation of strict EPA regulations the abandoned mines have been reclaimed and forests now cover lands that were once decimated by the Industry.
But the 21st century brings new technology, fracking to the table, and a renewed interest in the energy found under these rolling Ohio hills. The pitfalls and repercussions of how the industry, politicians and the local communities handle this newly evolving process will make coal mining seem quaint. The consequences are enormous with far reaching repercussions.
NB; http://www.acfan.org/ 3.5M quake in Athens County, fifteen hours after injection well meeting. The earth saying, “Time for direct action”?
This occurred 13 November 2013
Technical Data: Cameras; Nikon FTN, Leica III-c
Lenses: Nikkor; 24mm, 55mm macro, 105mm, 135mm. Lenses; Leica; Summaron, 35mm, f/3.5, Elmar 50mm, f/3.5, Elmar 90mm, f/4
Films: Adox KB14, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak Tri-X, Developers, Kodak D-76, Kodak HC-110, Agfa Rodinal