Program History and Need
In 1979, the Maryland Abandoned Mine Inventory was completed by the Maryland Abandoned Mine Lands Section (MAML) and reported 9500 acres of unstable and unreclaimed abandoned mine lands. Abandoned mines often pose health and safety hazards, degrade the environment, and prevent the productive use of the land. Congress recognized the need for laws establishing mining and reclamation standards and passed the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. This Act established national regulatory standards for the coal mining industry and created the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. The Fund generates money through a tax on coal production ($0.315 on surfaced mined coal, $0.135 on deep mined coal). These monies are then allocated to states having a federally approved regulatory and abandoned mine land reclamation program. The Maryland Abandoned Mine Land Program was approved by the Federal Office of Surface Mining on February 18, 1982 and began receiving grants from the Reclamation Fund in June of 1983.
The Future of Abandoned Mine Reclamation
After decades of completing reclamation projects, the Marylad Abandoned Mine Lands section has reclaimed 15% of the abandoned mines originally identified in the 1973 Maryland Abandoned Mine Inventory. Fortunately, many of the remaining 85% do not exist today. Soon after the 1977 Act was passed, it became apparent that re-mining of abandoned mines would play a significant role in accomplishing the daunting and expensive task of eliminating the health, safety and environmental problems caused by pre-1977 mining practices. New and efficient mining techniques provided opportunities for profit by extracting the remaining coal reserves at previously mined areas, thus eliminating the abandoned mine features, and reclaiming the land according to the new regulatory standards. The MAML estimates that 50% (4750 acres) of the abandoned mines in the 1979 inventory have been reclaimed through the re-mining process at no cost to the state, while recovering a natural resource that is important to the economy of Western Maryland and the American standard of living. The MAML was awarded an $80,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the opportunities for abandoned mine reclamation through re-mining in the Georges Creek Watershed of Allegany County.
Maryland is updating the 1973 inventory using improved survey techniques and extensive fieldwork to identify the remaining abandoned mine problems. In the past, there has been nearly $15 M of high priority health and safety sites to be reclaimed and $30 M of environmental cleanup. As long as funds are available, the MAML will continue to eliminate health, safety, and environmental hazards and promote re-mining of areas that can be reclaimed by the coal mining industry. Additionally, the MAML will continue to explore and implement innovative techniques to provide solutions to the acid mine drainage that is polluting streams and rivers.