Decades of mountaintop coal mining have substantially altered the topography of central Appalachia, according to new esearch by Duke University. Areas affected by mining are as much as 60 percent flatter than they were pre-mining. In mountaintop mining, bedrock is blasted away to uncover coal seams below the surface. In addition to mountains reduced in height, the valleys are also affected; they can be substantially shallower after mining debris is deposited in them. The fill can be as deep as 200 meters, which can significantly alter water flow and contamination as well. “The depth of these impacts is changing the way the geology, water, and vegetation interact in fundamental ways that are likely to persist far longer than other forms of land use,” said Emily Bernhardt, a professor of biology at Duke and co-author on the study.