The Trump administration has pulled the plug on a study on how the mountaintop removal mining technique may affect the health of those living near it.

The U.S. Interior Department has notified the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that it is putting $1 million in funding for the two-year project on hold in order to review grants.

"The Trump Administration is dedicated to responsibly using taxpayer dollars and that includes the billions of dollars in grants that are doled out every year by the Department of the Interior," according to a statement issued by the department.

Toxic metals deposited in waterways

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) originated in the 1970s and is done primarily in the Appalachian region of the U.S. Cheaper than conventional mining, it involves using explosives to blast away land and expose underlying coal seams. The excess rock and soil – which is supposed to be returned to the land -- is often dumped into nearby valleys, where it may block streams and deposit toxic hard metals such as lead, arsenic, manganese, and sulfate into waterways.

Birth defects, cancer and more

According to Appalachian Voices, a health and environmental advocacy group, “peer-reviewed studies by researchers from more than a dozen universities have concluded that mountaintop removal coal mining contributes to significantly higher rates of birth defects, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases among individuals living in the region where it occurs.”

“The National Academies - a coalition of private, nonpprofit institutions, said in a statement that it "believes this is an important study and we stand ready to resume it as soon as the Department of the Interior review is completed. We are grateful to our committee members for their dedication to carrying forward with this study.”

Meetings are allowed

The group is urging the public to attend open meetings about the issue in Hazard and Lexington, Kentucky on August 21 and 22. The meetings “are allowed to proceed according to the letter” according to the statement.