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Off-Site Impacts from Abandoned Mine Lands

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Two recent posts have focused on the Missouri program to reclaim hazardous abandoned mine lands. Missouri Abandoned Mine Lands Increase reported that, despite reclamation efforts, the number of acres awaiting reclamation increased in Missouri between February 2013 and April 2014. Hazardous Mine Lands – Contrasts Between States reported that reclamation efforts focus first on abandoned mine lands that pose the greatest threat, called Priority 1 & 2. Compared to its neighbors, Missouri has fewer Priority 1 & 2 units, has a lower estimated cost to reclaim them, and has reclaimed a greater fraction of them.

Untitled 2Mine reclamation programs also focus on containing the impact from an abandoned mine to the site where it is located. Since 2001, the number of off-site impacts in Missouri has declined from 18 to 2 (see chart at right). This chart comes from the federal government, which oversees state land reclamation efforts. It includes years through 2013, while the most recent report by the Missouri Land Reclamation Program only includes the years through 2011.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

In some years, the federal government and the state government disagree on the number of off-site impacts by one or two. Why is not clear, but the data comes from on-site inspections, and there could be differences between inspection procedures or the sites chosen for inspection. MO Coal Production 1995-2012That would be an interesting topic for further exploration, though it is beyond the scope of this blog.

The Missouri Land Reclamation Program reports that mining for lead, iron, limestone, sand and gravel began in Missouri as early as the 1740s. Coal mining, however, began in the 1840s, and coal miners left as many as 67,000 acres of unreclaimed land, while mining for other commodities left a combined 40,000 acres. In 1987, Missouri coal production was as high as 4.2 million tons, but it has declined since then. The second chart at right shows the trend since 1995.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

West Montrose Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

West Montrose Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

Harrisburg Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

Harrisburg Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

The Missouri Land Reclamation Program makes closing hazardous vertical mine openings a priority. While very important, they don’t photograph as dramatically as do surface mines. The photos at right show before and after shots of two surface mine reclamation projects, to illustrate the kinds of problems addressed and the results that can be achieved.

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Sources:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2013. 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report. Publication 2473. MODNR Home Page » Publications » 2010 and 2011 Biennial Report. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub2473.pdf.

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. 2013. Annual Evaluation Report for the Regulatory and Abandoned Mine Land Programs Administered by the State of Missouri for Evaluation Year 2013. http://odocs.osmre.gov. This URL displayed a database query. I selected the fields as follows: State: Missouri. Keyword: blank. Evaluation Year: 2013. Category: Annual Evaluation Report.

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