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Reclaiming More Abandonded Coal Mines in SWVA

Chelsea Barnes

A new report identifies abandoned former coal mines for clean-up and re-development in southwestern Virginia.

Communities Across Appalachia are looking to diversify the region’s economy with ventures like sustainable agriculture businesses, renewable energy sites, or other economic drivers; new businesses built, literally atop abandoned mine sites.

The report, by the “Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition” lays out guidelines for such projects: they must be appropriate for each abandoned coal site, include a variety of so-call, non traditional stake holders in the decision making, and they must be environmentally and economically sustainable for the long term.  

Funding has recently become available for projects to reclaim former coal mines. Some of the money comes from a tax per ton on coal mines still in operation. But any mines abandoned before 1977 when that law was adopted, are considered ‘orphan mines’ dependant on federal and other sources of funding to be remediated.  

What’s known as the RECLAIM act, which has long been pending in Congress remains stagnated. It would accelerate the distribution of 1-billion dollars of existing funds over five years, to revitalize coal communities.