Mine Reclamation Problems

Coal mining began in the United States in the 1800's and until 1977 there were no federal laws that regulated mining operations. Once mining ceased at a location that had been fully tapped, it was most often abandoned and operations were moved to a new site. In 1977, there were an estimated 1.1 million acres of abandoned coal mine sites in the United States. It is estimated that there are over 2 billion tons of abandoned coal in the Appalachain Region of the U.S. alone.

Problems caused by abandoned mine sites:

  • Water quality - Acid run-off and sedimentation from mine sites contaminate waterways and can increase the costs of water treatment systems. Acid mine drainage also leads to increased road maintenance costs due to the corrosive effets of this drainage on culverts. Streams and drainage systems are often clogged by sedimentation from abandoned mine sites.
  • Health & Safety Issues - Abandoned mine sites are froth with highwalls, open shafts, dilapidated mine structures and water-filled pits. These hazards have contributed to numerous accidents and deaths, and are especially dangerous for children who find these places interesting to explore.
  • Economic problems - Abanoded mine lands are often found in economically depressed areas. These areas often thived while mining operations were active, but were abandoned when mining slowed or halted. These areas are in desperate need of new industries to replace the jobs that the coal mining industry once provided. But, the mine sites make it nearly impossible for these communities to comptete for industry and tourism.
  • Esthetic problems - Abandoned mine sites often have sparse vegetation, stagnant water and many times used as illegal trash dumps. The appearance of the site and its proximity to public lands depress land value and detract from the tax base. The environmental scars contribute to aloss of community pride and people become apathetic toward the condition of thes areas.


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