Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
November 4, 2010

Antrim Caskey’s “Dragline”: Tree-planting on Kayford Mountain

“At 5:11 pm on March 18, 2009, a small blast detonates on Kayford Mountain, where Patriot Coal has a massive mountaintop removal site in southern West Virginia. This type of coal mining has destroyed one million square miles of the most diverse forest on the planet.”

Antrim Caskey is a photographer living in West Virginia, in a small town where there is no cellphone reception, where the only place to get her hair done — and get most anything — is the monstrous Wal-Mart which strangled local businesses like in so many other communities across the country. For the past several years, she has been documenting the struggle against mountaintop removal. As in decades past, coal companies continue to ravage the land in search of ever scarcer resources, and neighbor is pitted against neighbor in the uneasy dichotomy of jobs vs. health and economy vs. environment.

BagNews will follow Antrim’s work as it develops; from civil disobedience to court battles to a deeper understanding of this beautiful, tragic land, still one of the poorest states. Last week she joined about fifty activists led by Mountain Justice for a weekend on Kayford Mountain, where Larry Gibson and his family owned the land for two hundred years. Only a finger of fifty acres remains to them along a ridge top, an island surrounded by mining as seen above last year. For generations, West Virginians signed away the mineral rights underneath their properties for a pittance, without knowing what they were getting into.

“October 24, 2010: Driving to Kayford Mountain.” Antrim reports that this view is looking towards “Hell’s Gate” which is a “simple metal gate on the mountain that separates Larry Gibson’s property from the active mountaintop removal site. Once you pass Hell’s Gate it is like you are transported to an entirely different planet. Or, as the name would suggest, Hell on Earth,” as described by  The Backwoods Drifter.

“Kayford Mountain, October 24, 2010. Activists gathered on Larry Gibson’s mountain and carried out a peaceful protest on the reclaimed site planting 40 hemlock trees. No arrests were made, as the coal company may have decided to forgo confrontation and charges of trespassing in this case.”

Larry’s cousin Dale with his dog. The Gibson family maintains holiday cottages on their property.

The protesters camped and brought musical instruments. Union coal miners from Colombia came to show their support. But the coal companies continue to make enormous profits.

–Alan Chin


Please see the other posts in the Mountaintop Mining Watch series.

About the Photographer

Antrim Caskey

Antrim Caskey is a photojournalist based in the Coal River Valley, W.Va., and specializes in reporting on the human and environmental costs of mountaintop-removal coal mining. She has been arrested several times in the course of her reporting and been sued by Massey Energy. She founded Appalachia Watch, an advocacy journalism project, and self-published "Dragline," an award-winning photo exposé on mountaintop removal. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Smithsonian magazine, the New York Times, and was featured in the documentary The Last Mountain. See more of Antrim's work for BagNews here.

  • woebrow

    backsets, broadforum deeds & apalatic fits,
    ‘foul deeds will rise, tho all the earth o’erwhelm them to man’s eyes’

    • Antrim

      Woebrow, thank you for your beautiful words, please send me your postal address I’d like to send you something. you can email me at appalachia watch at gmail dot com. thank you!
      antrim caskey

  • Donna

    I once worked with a West Virginia native who said it was the most beautiful place in the world. How could anyone or anything desecrate such a beautiful place just to extract precious little coal from the destruction of the land and the water. Why can’t we as people say NO.

    Until we take money out of our political system and reverse Citizens United there is no way that our Congress Critters can represent the interests of the the people and the land and the water. Tuesday’s election results showed that.

    • Antrim

      hi Donna – that person you worked with who told you that West Virginia is the most beautiful place in the world was right, of course…The reason that “we as people can’t say NO,” is that not enough people know about the atrocities of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia and its local, national and global effects. Please help spread the word!

      – antrim caskey

  • DrBobSlusarenko

    Great photograqphy, great dialogue, Places ive been to and spent time at, people I know and love. Great series, thanks for your work

  • Allen Johnson

    Just found this website. Your extraordinary photos continue to touch our hearts and flame our passions so to end the horrible destruction and begin the healing of land and water and communities.

    • Antrim

      Dear Allen,

      thank you very much for your kind words. i’m glad that you have found the series…Will we see you in Charleston during Roland’s upcoming fast at the WV Capitol ? I told him there’s a new Governor he’s gotta meet.

  • rebecca

    I’m sending these photos to everyone I know.

  • Koko_io

    Cool !!

Originals Archive Archives