Secretary Norton Presents DOI Awards
By: Barbara Altizer
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced Department of the Interior agency awards for reclamation, environmental stewardship and community outreach at National Mining Association's MINExpo in Las Vegas, NV.
"Once synonymous with manual labor and harsh conditions, the mining industry has been transformed into a high-tech business that uses sophisticated machinery and cutting-edge technology. Coal and mineral extraction and processing are more efficient and environmentally friendly than ever," said Secretary Norton.
Assistant Secretary for Land and Mineral Management, Rebecca Watson and Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke joined in presenting the OSM and BLM awards.
The OSM awards recognize performance under the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act, which sets the standards for coal mining reclamation. The 2004 winners have gone well beyond simple compliance with the law, they have illustrated outstanding initiative, dedication, and stewardship.
The Excellence in Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Awards program began in 1986 to publicly recognize outstanding active coal mine reclamation and to highlight exemplary reclamation techniques.
The award winners include:
OSM Director's Award
Ruffner Mine in Logan County, WV received this year's Director's Award for active mining reclamation that includes eliminating abandoned mine land problems. Reclamation at Ruffner eliminated 9.4 miles of dangerous abandoned highwalls. It also cleaned up numerous abandoned refuse disposal areas and eliminated a large underground mine fire. The work was done as part of the active mining at no cost to the state or federal government.
OSM National Awards
Black Beauty Coal Co., Farmersburg Mine, Vigo and Sullivan counties, IN. - Reclaimed land is now producing above-average crop yields. More than double the amount of soil required by regulations was spread on the reclaimed land, much of which has been leased to local farmers. Reclamation has been so successful that it is difficult to identify where mining occurred.
San Juan Coal Co., San Juan Mine, Waterflow, NM. -- The grading techniques and channel design used at the San Juan Mine have represented the most innovative reclamation technology that has been developed for western coal mining during the past 25 years. Slopes have been created with the same characteristics as the undisturbed lands. San Juan used a design process based on fluvial geomorphic principles, so the reclaimed topography is more stable, diverse and resistant to damage from flash flooding than traditional reclaimed land in this arid environment.
TXU Mining Co., Tatum Mine, Beckville, TX -- Overburden removal at the Tatum lignite coal mine provided a unique opportunity for the development of water features in the reclamation. A pond-in-series design resulted in five wetland areas. Native grasses and forbs were planted and more than 40 acres of hardwood species are now established.
Patriot Mining Co., Guston Run Mine, Pursglove, WV. Mining in a coal seam known for acid mine drainage problems, the Patriot Mining Company incorporated coal ash from a local power plant to solve the problems. The ash was spread on the pit floor, mixed in the backfill, and acted as a sealer and neutralizing agent on the final slopes before placing topsoil. Along with other excellent reclamation practices, this procedure has resulted in good water quality discharges and post-mining land that will remain productive far into the future.
Consolidation Coal Co., Illinois Surface Mining Operations - Consol, Sesser, Il. With more than 30,000 permitted acres and the regulatory requirement to return the land to its previous productivity, Consolidation Coal Company developed a successful reclamation method in prime farmland conditions. Research showed soil loosening was needed to eliminate compaction problems, and a special plow was developed. The 17-inch lifting motion fractures compacted soils and plows to depths of 48 inches, resulting in soils that consistently meet performance standards.
Shafer Brothers Construction Inc., Payne Mine, Pursglove, WV. Operating within sight of Morgantown, Shafer Brothers used coal ash from a power plant to minimize acid mine drainage from the acid-producing layer just below the coal. The ash was primarily used to seal the pit floor by creating a dish that prevented water from getting into the potential acid-producing material. The water discharges have met all effluent standards without treatment, and an excellent hay crop is being harvested by the landowner.
Jacobs Ranch Coal Co., Jacobs Ranch Mine, Wright, WY. Reclamation at this Powder River Basin mine included creation of playa wetlands, which are a valuable vegetation and wildlife habitat. These intermittent wetlands are used by waterfowl as well as antelope, deer and elk. A year-round habitat and seasonal water supply has been reestablished.
Coal Loaders Inc., Sportsmen's Association of Greensburg and Hoffer Site, Unity Township, PA In 2004, a special award was presented for outstanding reclamation using Government Financial Reclamation Contracts administered by the PA State Regulatory Authority. A 1940s surface mine left abandoned highwalls, sinkholes, acid mine discharges and piles of coal refuse. The remaining coal was not enough to justify permitting, so the project was completed as an abandoned mine project funded by the mine operator. Through two contracts, Coal Loaders was able to mine the remaining coal, fully reclaim the site, and significantly improve the property.
OSM Good Neighbor Awards were created by OSM Director Jeff Jarrett to recognize coal operators for working cooperatively with their communities. The awards are presented for achievement of exemplary interaction, communication and involvement with the surrounding landowners and local community.
Bronze Good Neighbor Award
The Coteau Properties Co., Freedom Mine, Beulah, ND. Working with county, state, and federal agencies, as well as community leaders and other groups, Coteau designed and developed the Harmony Lake Wildlife Management Area. The 45-acre lake and 637acre wildlife area were donated to the state of ND.
Silver Good Neighbor Award
Coal-Mac Inc., Phoenix Surface Mines, Ragland, WV. At Coal-Mac, both the company and the employees are part of the local community. The company has initiated education programs and works with schools on environmental issues - in the classroom and at the mine site. Employees are career spokespersons and reading volunteers at the schools where, in 2003, children won monetary education incentive awards established by Coal-Mac.
Trapper Mine is part of the community, playing an important role in the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area. The company built a fitness center, the only community health club in the county and donated it to the community college. It provided personnel, machinery and funds to construct nine holes of the Yampa Valley Golf Course. Trapper also worked with community leaders and provided labor, machinery and funds to build an athletic complex.
Best of the Best Award
San Juan Mine in Waterflow, NM. Presented annually since 1996 this special award was created to identify "the best of the best" national award winners. Accomplishing outstanding reclamation is always a balance between production schedules, costs, and desire for the best possible reclamation.
The ability to make it all work while achieving award-winning reclamation was best exemplified by the team responsible for the innovative regrading at the San Juan Mine. The group showed foresight, initiative, and creative implementation, attributes that make them a model in both the coal industry and government regulatory environment.
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