Between April 2014 and April 2015 the number of units of abandoned mine land in Missouri increased by 0.74% according to a federal database (e-AMLIS, 4/15/2015). The data is shown in the graphic at right: blue represents land on which reclamation has been completed, red represents land funded for reclamation but not completed, and green represents land awaiting funding for reclamation.
(Click on graphic for larger view.)
Mines create environmental hazards if efforts are not made to prevent it. The hazards range from piles of material that can leach hazardous substances, to clogged streams, to polluted or hazardous water bodies, to vertical openings into which victims can fall, to dangerous walls, dams, and structures that can collapse.
The federal government keeps an inventory of identified abandoned mine lands, the e-AMLIS Database. There can be several units at one abandoned mine site. For instance, one might be a pile of tailings, another might be an abandoned building, and a third might be a highwall. The units of mine land in the statistics may refer to acres of spoiled land, number of unsafe structures, or lengths of unsafe highwall. You can’t translate directly from units to acres of land.
Since the 1970s, mine operators have been required to restore mine land when mining operations cease. Compliance is enforced through a bonding system. Most of Missouri’s abandoned mine lands result from mines abandoned before the 1970s. The Missouri Land Reclamation Authority estimates that as many as 107,000 acres of mine lands have been abandoned in Missouri, about 0.2% of the entire state. (Missouri Department of Natural Resources, 2014, p.3) Not all of it has been inventoried, and I don’t know the status of the uninventoried land.
During 2014 Missouri completed reclamation of 5 acres of clogged stream land, 2 acres of gob, 4,890 feet of dangerous highwall, 3 hazardous water bodies, and 1 vertical opening, at a total cost of $1,453,278. More than half of the high priority land has been reclaimed (more on that in the next post), but an estimated $109,849,728 of reclamation work remains unfunded. At 2014’s rate of spending, it will be 75 years before the work is finished. (Alton Field Office, 2015, AML Tables 2 and 3) Cleaning up environmental damage can be a long, expensive effort.
The law requires that abandoned coal mines be reclaimed before other abandoned mines, and it requires high priority lands be reclaimed before low priority lands. Priority 1 lands (those posing an extreme danger to public health and safety) and Priority 2 lands (those posing a threat to public health and safety) are high priority. Priority 3 lands (those involving the restoration of land previously degraded by mining) are low priority. More on high priority abandoned mine lands in the next post.
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. e-AMLIS Database. I used the Advanced Query, State = Missouri, County = All, District = All, Priority = All, Problem Type = All, Program = All, Funding = All, Mining Type = All.
For the map, I used the e-AMLIS Database, but I used the mapping function.
Alton Field Division, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. 2015. Annual Evaluation Report for the Regulatory Program and the Abandoned Mine Land Program Administered by the State Regulatory Authority of Missouri. U.S. Department of the Interior. http://apps.dnr.mo.gov/env/lrp/docs/Missouri2014AnnualEvaluationReport.pdf.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2014. 2012-2013 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs.