Coal has completely transformed the landscape in the American region of Central Appalachia.

This region’s rich history of coal mining dates back to the 18th century.

Surface mining, however, is a more “modern” form of extracting the dirty fuel source that requires clearing forests and sometimes blowing up mountains to reach the rich coal underneath.

A recent study out last week in PLOS ONE maps how these mines have converted the region’s mountainous lush forests into desolate landscapes of destruction.

From 1976 to 2015, strip mining and mountaintop removal contributed to wiping out about 1.5 million acres of forests across 74 counties in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Their algorithms excluded any regions that were not within a mine permit boundary and likely to be forested.

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