Man Uses Drones to Expose the Reality of the West Virginia Mining Industry – ‘I Want to Shut Them Down’

By: Lauren Wurth | Last updated: Oct 31, 2023

The coal mining industry in West Virginia is contending with an unusual enemy. His name is Junior Walk, a former coal miner.

Walk has had enough and has walked away from his past life. Now, armed with a drone and a mixture of anger and regret, Walk has vowed to fight coal mining with his last breath.

One Man, One Drone, One Mission

Walk’s mission is clear. “My ultimate hope is to shut down the coal industry,” he declares. To pursue this goal, he walks through the valleys of West Virginia’s mountainous forests, from where he sets up the aerial vehicle to capture mining activities.


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These video documentaries of environmental destruction will become his most potent weapon to put the miners out of business.


Walk Grew Up Amongst Mines

Walk is no stranger to mining. He grew up in a mining town and joined his father and grandfather in search of coal. It was a tradition.


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They blasted rocks and ventured beneath the earth to source for the black carbon. Walk also worked as a security and maintenance staff member in the coal industry. But along the line, disillusion began to slowly creep in.

Walk Has Been an Environmental Activist Since He Was a Teen

At 19, he’d finally had enough. He had seen too much of the damage the practice inflicted on the environment and the health of residents.


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“People are getting exploited, people are getting poisoned, people are losing their lives to the activities of this coal industry,” Walk lamented. “I’ve seen friends and neighbors getting sick and dying of cancer and heart disease and having babies with birth defects.”

He Had to Take Action

Walk decided to do something about it. Since then, he has championed a fierce campaign against coal mining in his community. He first started with direct protest until he discovered a more refined and perhaps more effective method.


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His drone, flying overhead the mines, can pierce through the thick forests to see what its operator wouldn’t be allowed to see. It captures the explosions and the vibrations of the Appalachian mountains that deal a deadly blow to the environment.

Pictures Don't Lie

His drone has turned out to be a credible witness to the destruction of the environment. “I sometimes get footage of huge plumes of blasting dust that some people just think is fake, like I work for Industrial Light & Magic or something,” he said.

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Walk has seen worse than that. Mining industry wastes have polluted and darkened precious water bodies. He has seen mountains sliced into several massive boulders, which he says are as large as cars.


Walk Has Recorded Some Success

Walk has enjoyed some encouragement along the way. He has been instrumental in holding several mining companies accountable and attracted huge fines to them. He believes loss of revenue is one of the best ways to hurt the miners.

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“I just want to do anything to be a pain in the *** to the coal industry,” Walk declared. “Anything that can cost them a dollar, because the only thing these people care about is the money in their pockets. Our community is expendable to them.”


His Work Has Earned Him Some Enemies

Walk isn’t a darling of his local community. His work has threatened a centuries-old tradition and won him several enemies along the way. He has watched his back for many years.

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He would be a fool not to after having his car brakes cut on several occasions and even being shot at. “I don’t have a lot of friends around here,” Walk disclosed.


He Isn’t Deterred by the Hostility

Despite the extremely hostile environment he has to survive in, Walk isn’t deterred. He is prepared for whatever may come his way in the process of standing for the environment and people.

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“I’m still breathing, and so I’m going to cost them as much money as I humanly can while I’m still on this earth,” Walk told the media. “Because I’m right, and they’re wrong.”


Walk Has Some Help

Walk isn’t alone. He has secured the cooperation of a small nonprofit organization called Coal River Mountain Watch.

Source: The Herald-Dispatch

The organization wants to “stop the destruction of our communities and environment by mountaintop removal mining,” and to work in “communities impacted by the irresponsible practices of the coal industry in southern West Virginia.”


Coal Mining and Global Warming

Beyond the destruction of the earth’s beauty and wildlife habitat, coal mining poisons the atmosphere. Research has shown that coal mines were responsible for 7% of Methane emissions in the United States in the year 2020.

Source: Offshore Technology

In turn, Methane is 25% to blame for global warming. Methane traps several times more heat than carbon monoxide in its first 20 years of release into the atmosphere.


A Future Without Coal

While the importance of coal isn’t in doubt, the costs of its mining and use far outweigh its benefits. This is a hard pill for many West Virginia politicians to swallow.

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Walk, now 33, hopes to force politicians to face these issues. But he needs more help. Hopefully, more voices will join the chorus for the elimination of coal mining.