SOCM’s original name, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, grew out of SOCM’s origins as a grassroots community organization based in poor isolated coalfield communities in five northern counties in the Cumberland Mountains. SOCM kept this name for the first thirty-six years of its history.
In 1971, armed with research about the failure of large absentee land corporations to pay taxes on their rich mineral land, residents won an appeal to require this taxation. In January 1972, after the win, residents formed an organization to take on other critical problems in their communities: virtually unregulated strip mining of coal which literally blasted the sides of steep mountains onto homes, roads and streams; insufficient revenue for schools, roads, and other services; and general neglect on the part of county officials. The organization, which came to be called SOCM (pronounced “sock-em”), was membership-based (first dues were $1!) and from the start it was democratically run by members.
In 1975, when Amax Coal Company applied for a permit to strip mine 20,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau, SOCM expanded beyond the original five counties and onto the plateau to fight the permit. On the plateau SOCM encountered widespread separation of surface and mineral rights. Surface owners had few rights over mineral extraction on their land.
Despite many threats and incidents of violence, SOCM achieved major victories during these early years: mineral tax and severance tax revenue for poor coalfield counties; a state Surface Rights Law requiring the surface owner’s consent before strip mining coal on the land; the defeat of many mining permits, including the Amax proposal, and a new federal strip-mining law which SOCM, in conjunction with coalfield groups across the country, worked to pass.Read more....