Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life
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Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein
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The Last Man on the Mountain

In West Virginia, people say that in the old days, communities turned into ghost towns when the coal ran out. Now, they turn into ghost towns when mountaintop mines move in.

Jimmy Weekley has lived in Pigeonroost Hollow, West Virginia for 70 years. He worked as a coal miner, as did his grandfather, father, uncles, and sons. And like most West Virginians, Weekley saw coal as the economic lifeblood of his community. Then in the 1990s, Arch Coal moved into his area and began work on the Spruce Number One mine. It was one of the largest mountaintop removal mining sites ever proposed, and it was virtually in Weekley’s backyard. Almost overnight, Weekley became an unlikely anti-mining activist.

Over the last decade, Weekley has watched his family and neighbors take buyouts from Arch Coal and leave the area. But Weekley refuses to sell. Now he’s the last person remaining in Pigeonroost Hollow.

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