Ohio has over 450,000 acres of land that was disturbed by surface mining before federal reclamation standards were in place. These are commonly referred to as abandoned mine land (AML). This land is often scarred by highwalls, water impoundments, acid mine drainage, and piles of coal waste and mine spoil, some of which is unfit for growing trees or vegetation. In addition, over 600,000 acres of land is underlain by deep mines, leaving some land at the surface unstable and prone to subsidence.
For decades, some AML has been reclaimed with federal funds from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) to address public health and safety and environmental priority problems. A majority of the poorly reclaimed land, however, remains unrestored, with little development potential in its current state.
With the continuing downturn in the coal industry, once an important factor in the economy of Appalachian Ohio, additional federal funding is being made available to not only reclaim AML to address public health and safety and environmental priorities but to do so in a manner that encourages the economic development of the reclaimed land and restored water. This program, the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Economic Development Pilot Program (Pilot), grants funds to reclaim eligible sites that have actual or potential for economic development. To be eligible, a site must have been mined and abandoned prior to 1977 and have an accompanying AML priority issue, as noted previously. An example of a successful project includes the stabilization of an underground mine so that a local business park could expand. Another example, related to recreational tourism, includes the elimination of dangerous surface mine water impoundments adjacent to an existing recreation complex, allowing the complex to grow in size and scope, thus expanding the economic impact of recreational tourism for the community. We are continually looking for new sites and would be happy to meet with you and discuss the program and conduct a site visit. You can view more information about the Pilot program using the link below or by contacting Marissa with your questions.
A similar program is pending before Congress under the RECLAIM Act. If passed by Congress, the RECLAIM Act would disperse almost $60 million dollars to Ohio over the course of five years to be spent on projects that restore abandoned coal mines and create new economic development opportunities. Rural Action is part of a national coalition that is promoting support for the RECLAIM Act.
Rural Action is also part of a regional coalition of organizations working to promote innovative uses of our AML sites. The Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition holds regular webinars on best practices and maintains a listserv for sharing articles and reports of successful projects.