Grad-student archaeologist returns to coal country to aid a vibrant movement Published: April 12, 2011 By: Dick Cortén Anthropology doctoral student Brandon Nida Brandon Nida wants to save a mountain. Coal-rich Blair Mountain. In Appalachia, where coal is king and traditional underground mining is giving way to a radical extractive technology known as “mountaintop removal.” A Berkeley archaeology and anthropology student proud of his hillbilly roots, Nida is doing his doctoral research in his native West Virginia. There, he’s a board member of Friends of Blair Mountain, a local grassroots organization, and an outspoken critic of mountaintop removal (MTR), which involves clearcutting mountain ridges, blasting away hundreds of vertical feet of soil and rock to expose underlying coal seams and depositing loose material in adjacent valleys. “Absolutely devastating,” Nida says of MTR’s impact on the landscape, ecology, human health and traditional life ways in Appalachia. At the same time, he says, the new face of coal mining has galvanized a “really, really vibrant” movement — of which he counts himself a part… Read Cathy Cockrell’s full NewsCenter story Related — West Virginia-raised Aaron Bady talks about mountaintop removal and flooding in the “hollers” back home in a post on The Berkeley Blog. Bady is a Ph.D. student in African literature in the English Department.