Inside the Battle Over a Strip-Mine Cemetery
A mine, a family cemetery, and a struggle over heritage and jobs.
To your rear will be 40 graves—old men and women, small children, veterans of conflicts from the Civil War to World War II—surrounded by a white, split-rail fence and a thin ring of trees. Underfoot: approximately four billion dollars' worth of coal.
It's a surreal scene, this "island in the sky," as Debbie Jarrell put it in a lawsuit she and five others filed two weeks ago against Alpha Natural Resources, which operates the mine surrounding the cemetery. This place that was once intensely private has now become the center of a very public fight, between the people who treasure the top of the mountain and those who yearn to get at what's beneath it.
The two sides have been quarrelling