Detractors assert that decommissioned coal mines can become an eyesore and a health hazard, but the Red Hills Mine’s reclamation proves them wrong.
In Mississippi’s Choctaw County, a beautiful natural park has replaced a coal mine. The landscape has been restored to its original state of ten years ago, right down to the meanderings of its pristine natural stream. Red Hills’ operators, North American Coal, even won a national award for the park, its third for various reclamation efforts.
In its years of operation, Red Hills’ miners dug up three layers of lignite coal from over 200 feet of ground material to provide fuel to the Southern Company electric plant. When North American Coal ceased its operations at Red Hills, however, it didn’t just leave a hole in the ground.
Several years later, the land has reverted back to meadows and forest, and wildlife has reinhabited the area. The local deer population has returned to the woods and fish once again swim freely throughout the stream.
Planning the Reclamation
“Reclamation is a critical part of what we do,” Mike Thomas, Manager of Land, Public, and Government Affairs for the Red Hills Mine, tells MS News Now.
While mine reclamation starts only after mining is complete, planning starts before the mine even receives its permit to begin operations, as the 1977 Coal Mining Reclamation Act stipulates. “After [The Coal Mining Reclamation Act], you’ve got to put it back as good as or better than it was to begin with,” Thomas explains.
Reclaiming a closed mine using best practices costs around $1.5 million per mine, according to Cornerstone. And despite the hefty price tag, Red Hills is far from the only mine that has successfully reclaimed its land. Cornerstone reports on other successful case studies ranging geographically from England to Mongolia.
Necessary measures include landscape maintenance and design, backfilling, and soil and waste management. Once mine operators have taken these steps, the ecosystem can then be renewed actively or passively, depending on the ecological and topographical specifics. The areas around reclaimed mines can also be restored to their original uses, which include farming, grazing, and residential activities.
Reclamation plans continue to develop throughout the actual mining process. Mines nearing closure prepare decommissioning plans, which include the selection of specific mitigation methods.
Although quality soil replacement is essential to reclamation, far too many reclamation procedures use badly corroded soil to refill the land. Insufficiently reclaimed areas are prone to mudslides, floods, water contamination, and growth dead zones, not to mention the associated poor aesthetics and health risks. Good soil helps land recover rapidly and fully.
Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc.’s soil stabilization and erosion control products can eliminate up to 98% of erosion problems at the source. Soil erodes naturally, so Midwest’s products are essential to the process of maximizing quality soil, saving time, and preparing the land for possible reuse.
Midwest’s Soil-Sement® product does not harm vegetation or wildlife, and in this particular case, provides the ideal solution for keeping soil in place until said vegetation can take root in the ground. Soil-Sement is also environmentally safe and easy to apply.
Reclamation has positive, lasting effects on an area of land when sufficiently implemented. Quality reclamation can even offer unique scientific and economic opportunities, such as the observation of a fledgling ecosystem or the development of the local tourism industry.
Better reclamation efforts represent the key to both improving ecosystems and maintaining the mining industry’s public image, and Midwest can help mine operators accomplish these essential goals.
(Image credit: David Good/flickr)