At the site of a former coal mine in Jefferson County, Ohio, the Friendship Highwall Reclamation Project eliminated more than 9,000 linear ft of dangerous exposed cliffs and transformed the area into parkland, native wetlands, forest and prairie, with a a funding award from a U.S. Dept. of the Interior program several years ago.

Now a new round of grant funding from the agency's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, totaling $124.8 million, aims to support more projects to reclaim abandoned U.S. mine land.

The program is focused on eliminating hazards and pollution related to past coal mining. These includes cleaning up traditional and surface mining sites, coal processing and refuse disposal areas.  

Funding from the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program will ensure states and tribes “have the resources needed to continue their decades of successful reclamation work on our nation’s abandoned mine land sites,” said Sharon Buccino, program principal deputy director, in an April 16 statement announcing the funding. 

Grants from this round of funding were awarded to 24 states and two tribes.

The largest allocated amount is $25.2 million for Wyoming. Don Newton, administrator of its Abandoned Mine Land Division, last November testified before a Senate committee that the state had reclaimed more than 25,000 acres and closed more than 2,500 mine openings. He added that state topography, soil conditions and rainfall create different challenges than what is faced in Appalachian mining. 

The second-largest allocation is $21.5 million to Pennsylvania; followed by $15.3 million to West Virginia; $7.7 million to Illinois and $7.4 million to Kentucky. Remaining allocations are all under $4 million each. 

The funding levels are based on a formula set by Congress based on past and current coal production. The program is partly funded by fees on coal produced in the U.S. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 extended the collection of that fee into 2034 and also included $11.3 billion over 15 years for abandoned mine reclamation. 

Interior says it has distributed about $8.5 billion in abandoned mine land grants since lawmakers passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in 1977.