US beekeepers eye Appalachian surface mines for beehives…

In Appalachia, beekeepers are using mountains once scraped up or blown apart for coal.

HERNSHAW, W.Va. (AP) — Up a tree-lined trail still marked “no blastin on Sundays,” swarms of bees now patrol a mountain once partially broken apart for coal.

It’s been 15 years since the severed West Virginia mountainside produced any of the fossil fuel. Pritchard Mining Company has filled the adjacent valley with broken-off rocks, re-sloped the mountain and planted new trees and flora.

“Mining for honey” is the new extractive business here, one with no impact on the land. Behind two security gates, seven small hive boxes are surrounded by a short electric wire fence, which helps fend off hungry adversaries of honey producers.

“Our biggest threat is that bear,” Wade Stiltner, state Department of Agriculture apiary inspector, said earlier this month before flipping on the voltage.

In Appalachia, beekeepers say reclaimed surface mines make a lot of sense for the trade.

The controversial mining method often involves scraping off sides of mountains or literally blowing off their peaks for coal, and filling nearby valleys and streams with the remnants.

Environmental groups decry the footprint left on the land and polluting and health impact possibilities of what’s being dumped. Several also say repurposing the land gives the industry a free pass to divert attention away from the harm being done.

“It’s a creative use for wasteland,” said Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Of course, I don’t know if it can match the scale of the destruction we have. That would be a lot of beehives.”

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