On May 8, 2018. the administration of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of $55.6 million in funding that will support at least 150 abandoned coal mine reclamation projects that will create new jobs, reduce health and safety risks, and improve the environment and outdoor recreation opportunities throughout Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania’s mining legacy necessitates continued commitment to remediating and reclaiming former mine lands, eliminating hazards, improving the environment, and benefiting communities,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
The projects approved for funding will remove dangerous steep walls left by mining operations; correct hazardous sinkholes and troughs caused by collapse of underground mines; extinguish underground fires; reforest and revegetate some land; and remove acid mine drainage, helping to restore the health of streams, some of which have been contaminated for decades, and potentially enabling the return of fish populations.
Project funding comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement 2018 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Grant Fund, and is supported by the active mining industry via a fee on coal mined across the country.
“One-third of the abandoned mine lands in the nation are located in Pennsylvania, largely as a result of hundreds of years of coal mining prior to modern laws, regulations, and safeguards,” said Eric Cavazza, director of the DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. “DEP receives around 800 requests annually for assistance from the public for AML problems and constantly evaluates eligible sites, assigning a higher priority to sites that pose a public health, safety, or property risk.”
Some of the larger projects to be funded include the following:
- Allegheny County: To extinguish the Renton underground mine fire in Plum Borough.
- Cambria County: To reclaim the Stineman coal refuse pile in South Fork Borough, to improve water quality in the South Fork of the Little Conemaugh River and facilitate construction of a missing section of the Path of the Flood Trail.
- Indiana County: To construct an AMD treatment plant in Buffington Township, to treat water from three underground mine pools to improve water quality in Blacklick Creek and the Kiski-Conemaugh Watershed.
- Westmoreland County: To reclaim the Banning coal refuse pile in Rostraver Township. A solar farm is planned for the site.
- Westmoreland County: To control mine subsidence in the town of Bradenville to stabilize and help prevent future subsidence for more than 100 homes.
- Lawrence County: To reclaim the Castlewood West abandoned surface mine in Shenango Township, eliminating a dangerous highwall.
- Blair County: To reclaim the Glen White (North Site) abandoned surface mine in Logan Township, eliminating a dangerous highwall and improving water quality in Altoona’s public water supply area.
- Centre County: To reclaim the Shettleston abandoned surface mine in Snow Shoe Township, eliminating a dangerous highwall, restoring forestland through tree planting, and improving recreational opportunities.
- Clearfield County: To reclaim the Weber Run West abandoned surface mine in Cooper Township, eliminating a dangerous highwall.
- Northumberland County: To eliminate a dangerous highwall at the Bear Valley Southwest abandoned surface mine, allowing construction of an off-road vehicle/ATV park to improve recreational opportunities in Coal and Zerbe Townships.
- Lackawanna County: To extinguish the Dolph underground mine fire in Olyphant Borough.
- Schuylkill County: To reclaim the Oneida West abandoned surface mine in North Union Township, eliminating a dangerous highwall.
Pennsylvania’s DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation is an award-winning national leader in mine land reclamation. The bureau has completed projects at several thousand AML sites, helping to revitalize communities across Pennsylvania.
Photos courtesy of PA DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation.