September 10, 2012 / 3:48 AM / in 7 years

West Virginia man who fought coal mining practice dies

Sept 9 (Reuters) - An environmental activist from West Virginia who fought a coal-mining technique that flattened mountains, died on Sunday at age 66, according to his foundation.

Larry Gibson, who spent decades trying to halt the mining practice known as mountaintop removal, in which the tops of mountains are shaved off to access the coal below, died after suffering a heart attack on his beloved Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, his Keeper of the Mountains Foundation said in a statement.

“Larry traveled across the country, to schools, churches and a wide range of public gatherings where he spread his simple gospel about the mountains: ‘Love em or leave em; just don’t destroy em,’” the statement said.

Gibson started his fight to preserve his own 50-acre tract of land on Kayford Mountain, which he has said is surrounded by one of the largest mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachia, a largely impoverished U.S. region with its core in West Virginia, Kentucky and other nearby states.

“I first set out to save my mountain, Kayford Mountain. By establishing a land trust, we saved our piece of it forever. Now, I fight to save all mountains, and all the people living in them,” Gibson said in a profile posted on the website of environmental law firm Earthjustice.

Bill Price of the Sierra Club in Appalachia said Gibson would be missed.

“He wasn’t rich. He never had any ambition to be rich. I don’t think Larry even had an ambition to be well-known,” Price said. “What Larry’s ambition was was to get enough people involved to stop the destruction of the mountains that he loved.” (Reporting by Cynthia Johnston and Stacey Joyce)

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