The Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Unit of the Division of Mined Land Reclamation (DMLR) was established in the late 1970’s to abate pre-federal Act coal mine related problems adversely impacting the public health, safety, general welfare, and the environment.
Abandoned mine land related problems include landslides, stream sedimentation, hazardous structures, dangerous highwalls, subsidence, loss of water, acid mine drainage, and open mine portals. To be eligible for reclamation under Virginia's AML program, the site must have been mined prior to December 15, 1981, or the problem caused by mining that occurred prior to that date. There must also be no other individual, firm, or organization responsible to reclaim the site.
Each year, the DMLR applies to the Federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) for a grant to conduct reclamation projects throughout the state. These high priority projects pose the greatest threat to public health and safety and the environment. Upon OSM's approval of the grant, AML personnel design reclamation plans and obtain consents for rights of entry, publish public notices in local newspapers to advertise for construction contractors, inspect the contractor's work to ensure the site is reclaimed and the problems abated according to the engineering design. The monies to fund these grants comes from fees paid by the coal industry on each ton of coal mined. Current fees are $0.315 per ton of coal mined by surface mine methods and $0.135 per ton of coal mined using underground mining methods.
Virginia maintains an AML Inventory to catalog the abandoned mine problems throughout the state. Current data show more than $109,000,000 in estimated costs to reclaim just the highest priority AML features. To date, DMLR has expended more than $94,000,000 reclaiming AML sites in Virginia.
Virginia's AML Program is widely recognized as one of the best AML programs in the nation. The federal Office of Surface Mining has selected several Virginia AML projects for national awards, and Virginia is noted for its innovative accomplishments in reclaiming abandoned coal mine land.
A common problem facing AML programs nationwide is the limited amount of money and the seemingly limitless amount of land in need of reclamation. DMLR is actively promoting remining as one solution to this dilemma. By taking second cuts on existing highwalls, mining companies have eliminated miles of old pre-law highwalls, covered and revegetated acres of eroding outslopes, and abated acid mine drainage problems.
For additional information contact (276) 523-8206 or Richard.Davis@dmme.virginia.gov.
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