6th Floor, L & C Annex
401 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37243
Questions? Ask Water Quality
Division of Water Pollution Control
Land Reclamation Section
Tim Eagle, Manager
Abandoned coal mines pose serious threats to public health, safety and welfare as well as degrade the environment. The programs of the Tennessee Land Reclamation Section accomplish three important things: (1) They remove dangerous health and safety hazards that threaten the citizens of Tennessee; (2) they improve the environment; and (3) they restore resources to make them available for economic development, recreation, and other uses. Problems typically addressed by the Land Reclamation Section include open or improperly filled mine shafts, dilapidated mine buildings and equipment, toxic mine refuse and drainage, landslides, mine fires, highwalls and subsidence. Tennessee Code Annotated (59-8-324) authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation or its employees to acquire or enter property for the purposes of reclaiming abandoned mines.
The Land Reclamation Section is responsible for reclaiming those mine sites that have been designated as "abandoned", meaning those sites which have been mined prior to surface mining laws, those sites with no reclamation bond, or those sites where there is no continuing obligation to the mine operator(s). Both appropriated state dollars and federal grant dollars from the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining (www.osmre.gov) are used to reclaim the sites. With an annual operating budget of approximately 1.4 million dollars, the Land Reclamation Section administers around 10 reclamation contracts each year.
Land Reclamation staff are responsible for identifying potential reclamation project sites, designing reclamation plans and specifications for those sites, awarding reclamation contracts, and inspecting the reclamation work as it progresses.
The Land Reclamation Section is also responsible for reclaiming those mine sites where reclamation bonds (posted by the mine operator) were collected by the State because of inadequate reclamation. Many of the mine sites where bond has been collected were mined in the early to mid-1970's. Even though most of these sites were partially reclaimed by the operator, many require extensive earthmoving and revegetation to stabilize them. The bonds that were collected are usually not sufficient to fully reclaim the sites; therefore each bond collection mine site is prioritized in order to address those which exhibit the most adverse mining effects. Bonds from stable sites may be applied to those needing work where the amount of the bond is inadequate to fully reclaim the site.
Even though money is appropriated each year from the bond fund for forfeiture reclamation projects, only the highest priority sites are reclaimed because the fund is limited. All unexpended dollars are returned to the fund at the end of the fiscal year for use on future projects.
Since its inception in 1981, the Tennessee Land Reclamation Section has reclaimed over 2,400 acres of abandoned mine lands and abated hundreds of hazards at a cost of $24.8 million dollars. Approximately 900 acres have been reclaimed using $7.7 million of state appropriated monies and matching funds, while 1,500 acres have been reclaimed with $17 million in federal grant dollars.
(move the mouse cursor over the image to see before and after pictures of this abandoned mine.)
During the summer of 2003, the Land Reclamation Section will have four active reclamation projects:
Bear Creek UWA 3 (Scott County), this 13 acre
project will eliminate a dangerous highwall and spoil embankment.
Bear Creek UWA 4 (Scott County), this 58 acre project will eliminate dangerous highwalls and surface mine pits at five different sites.
Wilder 10 (Putnam and Overton Counties), this project will regrade and vegetate 8 acres at four different sites.
Rattlesnake 2 (Sequatchie County), this project will construct a passive treatment system to treat acid mine drainage from an abandoned underground mine.
Joy Sanders (Grundy County) - Elimination of
a 40 foot vertical shaft and construction of a subsurface drain to
address a surface mine drainage problem.
Hamblin Landslide (Claiborne County) - Removal of a mine related landslide that threatens a Claiborne county residence.
Cox Valley (Cumberland County) - Backfilling of dangerous surface mine pits adjacent to a heavily traveled county road.
Farmer Hill 2 (Grundy County) - Backfilling a dangerous highwall and hazardous water filled pit adjacent to a local cemetery and reclamation of 172 acres of abandoned mine lands.
Mine Safety and Health Administration's Stay Out! Stay Alive! Campaign