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Sandra Diaz of Appalachian Voices speaks on mountaintop removal

Aurora, New York – The Wells College chapter of Amnesty International has invited Sandra Diaz, a field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, to campus for a talk on the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining. The multi-media presentation, entitled “Appalachian Treasures,” will take place on Monday, April 9 at 7:00 pm in the Art Exhibit Room, Macmillan Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia, the rural population is threatened as a result of mountaintop removal coal mining. Large coal companies use dynamite to blast the mountains, removing up to 1,000 feet of elevation to reach seams of coal below the surface. “Valley fills,” the term for the mining waste dumped into adjacent valleys, have already buried 1,200 miles of mountain streams.

Mountaintop removal leaves behind barren wastelands too remote to be viable for development and too disturbing in appearance to support a tourism economy like those flourishing in the non-coal regions of Appalachia. To date, mountaintop removal mining has flattened more than a million acres across the Appalachian coalfields.

“Appalachian Treasures,” a multi-media presentation on mountaintop removal and its critical social and environmental justice impacts, discusses these ramifications and more.

“Although Appalachia may seem far from New York, we are all deeply tied to the region,” says Diaz. “Not only does much of the electricity powering our homes and businesses come from Appalachian coal, but the region’s history, music, and famed self-reliance remain a great influence in American culture.”

Appalachian Voices is a citizens group that seeks to solve the environmental problems having the greatest impact on the central and southern Appalachian Mountains. Their mission is to empower people to defend the region’s rich natural and cultural heritage by providing them with tools and strategies for successful grassroots campaigns.

Diaz continues: “The Appalachian Treasures project is focused on ending this particular form of coal mining. Over the course of years working with coalfield residents, we realized that mountaintop removal would only continue if the American people remain unaware that such an unjust, destructive, and shortsighted enterprise is happening. Most coalfield communities are rural and isolated. In states where big coal companies hold overwhelming political power, the opposition of coalfield citizens alone is not enough to stop mountaintop removal.”

Amnesty International’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending abuses of human rights. These rights include physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination. The Wells College chapter of Amnesty International participates in urgent actions each month. As part of these monthly events, the student organization seeks to build awareness of human rights abuses, gain support for the release of prisoners of conscience, and sponsors speakers and events on campus.

For more information about the Appalachian Treasures presentation, please contact Kelly Tehan, Communications Director, at 315-364-3260; visit the College’s Web site or go to for more on Appalachian Voices.

Wells College is a nationally recognized private coeducational liberal arts college located in Aurora, New York, on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. It was established in 1868 by Henry Wells, founder of the Wells Fargo and American Express Companies. The College is known as an exceptional value, pairing top quality academic programs with affordable tuition. Wells boasts small class sizes, an extensive experiential learning program, cross-enrollment with Cornell University and Ithaca College, and a wide range of off-campus study options. The academic program allows students substantial freedom to create individually unique educational experiences. The College is currently strengthening its off-campus study programs and introducing new initiatives in its Book Arts Center. A new strategic plan has recently been endorsed by the college community, and Wells is preparing to dedicate a new 45,000 square foot science facility this fall.

-Kelly B. Tehan, Communications Director, Wells College





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