Remining in Ohio

Remining in Ohio

what you’re about to see is an amazing ntransformation and healing of the land   healing of the land accomplished by coal nmining through a technique called reminding   ohio’s coal operators are conducting secondary nreminding operations that recover additional coal   reserves and provide no cost reclamation nand remediation of past mining practices   these reminding efforts are restoring streams nwetlands and aquatic resources within previously   impacted watersheds in the next several minutes nyou will learn about an exciting technique used   to reclaim mined land the challenges of reminding nand the incentives to encourage the process   early coal mines were relatively small but as nthe years passed they grew an aerial extent   until just before world war one virtually all of nohio’s coal was produced from underground mines   the appearance of the steam-powered coal nshovel around 1914 permitted coal surface   mining to develop and by world war ii surface nmining had become very important statewide in   terms of total production during that time the nstandards laid out by the law were inadequate   and as a consequence many surface coal mines left nbehind a scarred landscape of abandoned mine lands   such abandoned mine lands contain exposed ndangerous unstable final cut high walls and   steep piles of unreclaimed excavated material ncalled spoil creating fall hazards for humans   and the potential for rock falls they also often ncontain streams and water impounding mining pits   contaminated with iron manganese aluminum nother metals acidity dissolved solids and   sediment abandoned underground mine openings nand auger voids eroding unreclaimed spoil and   the remnants of coal cleaning facilities nand areas where vegetation cannot thrive   water accumulating in abandoned mining pits can be npolluted by acid mine drainage created by exposed   spoil and high walls pyrite or fool’s gold is a nmineral containing iron and sulfur it is common   in the rocks in the coal-bearing region of ohio nwhen exposed and unreclaimed mining spoil the iron   and sulfur react with air and water and produce nmetal-rich acid mine drainage the acid drainage   collects and pits seeps through unreclaimed nspoil and often contaminates off-site waters   ph of the waters off this area was around two npoint eight to three three and a half and uh   the old spoils are cast out uh some of course nslid over the hill and back then they couldn’t   sell the top seam of coal so they wasted it nthere was a lot of that string over the area   and really making acids so you know it took na lot of years for it to break down to start   healing itself somewhat but for the most part nit was pretty desolate unreclaimed coal refuse   material here seen in a flooded stream channel can nalso generate acid mine drainage past operations   including unreclaimed spoil banks are also nunchecked sources of off-site sedimentation the   sediment can fill adjacent drainage waste and move ndownstream causing flow disruption and flooding   abandoned underground mines and auger holes nact as conduits for acid mine drainage   as groundwater flows through them it becomes nexposed to pyritic material within the coal seam   and the roof and floor material as the acid nmine drainage seeps flow downstream they hit   the major streams that we’re looking at here today ncreating poor water quality also we have a lot of   failures as far as slips are concerned so the nloading along the bench causes slips that force   the original ground to down into the valleys nand that results in high sediment content within   the streams and they fill up with sediment these nsituations create a dangerous habitat for wildlife   and pose a risk to water quality more than 50 n000 acres of such lands requiring hundreds of   millions of dollars to reclaim exist in ohio nwhen it hits the air turns red like rust and it   coats the bottom of the stream so when you look nat this stream the water itself may be clear   but the bottom of the stream is a red and it’s nfull of flocculant where the iron precipitates   out that covers the substrate it covers up the nfood sources for the bugs and the fish and so   they have no form they can’t eat or nthere’s no place for them to live so   in 1972 ohio passed a comprehensive nsurface mining law and in 1977 the   surface mining control and reclamation act nbecame effective on the federal level it   required states to pass laws meeting specific nstringent mining and reclamation standards   such standards include contemporaneous reclamation nregrading to approximate original contour   installation of drainage controls and sediment nponds to prevent offside sedimentation   and water contamination during mining saving nof topsoil re-soiling and re-vegetation   the surface mining control and reclamation nact also included provisions for reclaiming   abandoned mine lands but due to the nhigh cost per acre to reclaim such sites   accomplishing the reclamation of all nabandoned mine lands under the act   was found to be challenging in addition given the nnew reclamation standards in law coal operators   were concerned that they would be held liable for nwater quality and land reclamation on previously   mined land left unreclaimed by others and as na consequence such sites were often avoided   today a program called reminding allows mining noperators to return to these previously mined   areas and mine and reclaim the land without being nheld accountable for the lack of reclamation by   previous mining this allows coal companies to nobtain coal while freeing up abandoned mine land   program funding for additional reclamation nprojects thus reminding allows previously   mined land to be reclaimed without the specific nexpenditure of limited government funds reminding   has already demonstrated the ability to reclaim nhundreds of unreclaimed acres per reminding   project at reminding sites much of the coal under nlow cover of overburden has already been mined   therefore access to the remaining coal is more ncostly because a greater thickness of overburden   must be removed to initially access any coal this ncan be the single most cost generating aspect of   a reminding site a typical reminding operation ninvolves advancing existing high walls by taking   two or three cuts into the contour of the hillside neach approximately 100 to 150 feet in width   in the case of area mining the cuts nadvance completely through the hill   both methods unlock the coal reserves nbehind the pre-existing abandoned high wall   re-mining and reclamation result in improvements nto water quality and land use restoration of   the hydrologic balance and elimination of nhazards to the public’s health and safety   so we’re standing in mccluney creek that’s na tributary to the moxahela watershed   comes in on the western side enters into nmoxahale creek at about river mile 18.   about 2 000 acres of surface mines in here nand about 900 acres of underground mines   so this area has been extensively mined nohio university’s winovich school has been   involved with doing the asset mind drainage nabatement and treatment plans amdot plans   as a partner we have a collaborative partnership nwith the division of mineral resources management   we’ve been working on watershed nrestoration and watershed characterization   for the last you know 20 years and so in the nmdot we we proposed a phased approach which was   you know phase one we knew that oxford mining was nin this area and they were you know back in 2005   thinking about reminding as a potential for this narea and we’ve seen reminding in other areas where   the impact from abandoned mine lands in in past ncoal mining is so pervasive that the reminding can   uh be an option to go in and restore and and treat nthose abandoned sources so those strip pits and   high walls and leftover spoil can all be wrapped ninto the the process of reminding and reclamation   at the same time here at the ohio state university ndepartment of civil environmental and geodetic   engineering we have been conducting nresearch and demonstration projects   that are focused on innovative ways to nreclaim abandoned mine lands for more   than a decade there was three permits issued by nthe state of ohio to oxford they all involved   reminding activity the permits straddled both the nmoxahala and the rush creek watersheds that’s the   reason why we chose the two together we found nmore evidence that reminding does mitigate   problems out there including acid mine drainage nyou know high wall spoils not only were 20 miles   of high wall eliminated and over 470 some acres nof strip mine spoil banks and and pits eliminated   but there’s also a noted improvement in the nwater quality similar to what we saw in duck   creek watershed and what we saw the evidence nwas in the headwater streams and that’s where   this mining took place is in the headwaters nof the clooney run particularly and also in   rush creek and so that’s a point where phs were naround three to begin with before they started   and then we looked at their quarterly monitoring ndata as they moved through and reclaimed these   areas and eliminated those sources we found that nthe water quality actually improved four levels   from the in the severity index the secondary nrecovery of coal reserves through reminding   is important for two reasons one economically it nrecovers coal reserves that are often overlooked   financially difficult to mine or essentially nuntouchable under general mining regulations   and two environmentally it advances restoration nof the hydrologic balance to watersheds   beyond the reminding site and provides a major nuplift to the aquatic and terrestrial environment   general site conditions are improved land use nopportunities are elevated and water quality   within the downstream of the project site is nimproved studies have clearly documented the   benefits of reminding to aquatic and terrestrial nenvironments so 2006 was when this site   was initially mined so they started mining on nthis ridge in this direction and they moved   around the watershed so they start over here nand they actually progressively move around   the watershed and end up on this side this nstream here when i first started assessing it   about 15 years ago it was orange it was full of nsediment there was at least a foot a sediment   in here that filled the stream completely nall the way up the channel and had real low   phs were around four uh had high specific nconductivity there was no life here it was   a dead stream so after being in started their nreminding project they built ponds the minute   they built the ponds that increased water quality ndownstream because of the ponds provided dilution   they also drained the pit ponds which were the nsource of the amd and these streams started to   improve over time the sediment was washed out as a nresult of the storm water coming down through the   streams naturally and 15 years later we have a nbeautiful stream that’s got a lot of structure   it’s got pools and riffles it’s got fish it’s ngot macroinvertebrates it’s got salamanders   we do assessments to determine the water quality nout here we do chemistry which we take flow   and samples of the water and send them to the nlab when we first started this stream was full   of fine grain sand and silt and was completely ncovered with those types of materials very very   small materials those are not healthy habitats nand when it fills up with sediment then there’s   not a lot of diversity either the pools are filled nthe riffles are covered so you just get kind of a a very flat looking stream that doesn’t nhave a lot of characteristics to it or   character to it and so that makes it a poor nquality stream for habitat if you have poor   quality stream for habitat then you’re not ngoing to have bugs coming back so we can   actually improve water quality but if our habitat ndoes improve that doesn’t mean we’re going to get   a good quality stream in the end we want to make nsure that the you know the habitat develops also   and that’s why it takes a little bit longer for nthese downstream sites to improve because it   takes time for the physical aspect of the stream nto develop as we move down from this mine site   regulatory agencies understand the important nrole reminding plays in watershed restoration   and are working cooperatively to provide nreminding incentives to the mining industry   the positive results of reminding nobserved at the field level are compelling   recognizing the value of reminding as well as nthe additional operational and economic burdens   associated with mining an unreclaimed site where nthe easily recoverable coal has been mined and   where unstable high walls spoil piles and acid nmine drainings exist various incentives have   been offered to coal mining companies both at the nfederal and state levels to encourage reminding   for example in 1987 congress passed the nrey hall amendment to the clean water act   to assist in abating water pollution from nunreclaimed areas mine operators in the past   had been reluctant to remind areas with ndegraded mining related water discharges   due to the potential for long-term liability nmining companies could not get into these sites   because there are pre-existing discharges out here nthat they would become immediately responsible for   if they decide to come into a site like this nas soon as they turn the spate of earth they   were responsible for those discharges ray hall nwhat it does is it allows them to come back into   these sites access the coal as long as they don’t nmake things worse and do reclamation and do some   pollution abatement they can walk away when nthey’re done they take background or baseline   water quality data and based on that they can nget an alternate effluent limit based on what   it looks like now before they go in and remind as nlong as they don’t make it worse from that base   on that baseline they’re okay as a result of the nray hall amendment coal operators are encouraged   to mine unreclaimed areas without being held nliable for pre-existing water quality problems   even though operators are not held liable for nprevious pollution the result of reminding is   almost always a decrease in pollution making this nincentive extremely valuable through the reminding   process the mine operator implements numerous nbest management practices or bmps to conduct the   reminding project and reclaim both the abandoned nmine areas and the coal reserves recovery area   bmps tend to work in one of three ways controlling nthe movement of surface or groundwater improving   the on-site geochemical conditions or eliminating nerosion and sedimentation basically what they are   is a series of procedures either conducted during nmining or during reclamation to improve the water   quality the most common one is just getting nreclamation done out here these old sites have   been open for years the water quality has been ndeteriorated for a long time and will continue   to do so unless they get reclamation getting nthe site where you have positive drainage   you’re getting rid of areas where the water ntends to infiltrate in is a big part of it   and then getting something to grow on it both of nwhich will keep water out of the site by and large   and reduce the acid load and the metals load nthe reclamation as i said basically gives you   positive drainage so the water runs off rather nthan infiltrates into the mind spoil when you   get vegetation on there it intercepts a lot of the nwater because it’ll take it up uptake through the   roots and the water never makes it into the spoil nas well well the site consisted of a pit full of   water a number five coal pit and the water had nno outlet from the pit so it accumulated there   and gradually seeped through the spoil causing uh nexcess loading of metals and a high acidity load   to the downstream waters secondly the site because nof the acidic overburden and lack of topsoil   did not exhibit much vegetation so that made the nsite susceptible to sheet erosion so there was   also downstream sedimentation loading from this nsite so during the course of mining we reclaimed   the pit to current reclamation standards that was nprobably the most significant bmp in addition to   that the overburden analysis was conducted prior nto mining here as part of the permitting process   identified an alkaline shale layer that we nfound to be highly erodible because of the   lack of topsoil here we used this weathered shale nstockpile that special handle it and stockpiled it   for use as an alternative soiling material when nwe were done to ensure that acid mine drainage   production would not occur post mining we also napplied 10 tons the acre of lime to the backfill   before we put the topsoil down that created nan alkaline environment at the surface of the   backfill so that any water that should percolate nthrough the topsoil would would be neutralized   by that alkaline material to prevent any acid ndrainage reaction occurring post mining there   was also a a small underground deep mine here that nthat had left a small gob pile maybe 100 150 tons   that had been deposited directly in the headwater nof one of the streams here was causing acid and   metals loading to the stream and we removed nthat complete completely from the site we took   it to a an approved coal refuse disposal site in naddition to that the establishment of a vigorous   growth of grasses and legumes here has stopped nand prevented any sheet erosion from the site   everything worked as planned here property has nbeen reclaimed to current reclamation standards   there are two landers involved here both nlandowners are productively using this land   this is an alfalfa field here across the way nthey’re they’re cutting hay and grazing cattle   so we have eliminated the pollution sources nhere and returned the ground to productive use   our industry working in partnership with the state nregulatory agencies looked at this site and saw   this as a potential for best management practices nto result in environmental lift to the downstream   waters and we carried out the plan as proposed nand it worked as planned aesthetically it’s   obviously a lot more pleasing to look at a nice nfarm field as opposed to abandoned pits and spoils   it also eliminated a safety hazard there are nnumerous benefits that result from reminding first   reclamation of abandoned areas is gained without nthe use of abandoned mine land program funds   second in significant numbers of cases water nquality improves third with the elimination of   high walls and pits the land is returned to na productive state fourth aesthetically the   scars from past mining are eliminated and the nland now blends into the surrounding landscape   in fifth physical hazards such as flooded mine npits exposed high walls and open underground mine   entries are eliminated well from my experience nreminding has been enormously successful we’ve   gotten thousands of acres reclaimed that the aml nprogram would probably never get to the abandoned   mine land program would probably never get to nnumber one you’re gaining reclamation of sites   that have been open and unusable for years two nyou have a strong possibility of improving the   water quality and three the land gets back into na usable form reducing the amount of erosion and   sedimentation will naturally happen on these nsites because they’ve been open for years   every time it rains you get a big wash of silt and nthat sort of thing into the streams down here not   only the best management practices but also how nmuch improvement we were seeing in water quality   occurring from reminding and looking at how many nacres we’ve seen remind at that time the bit of   research i did where i looked at 112 sites which nwas over 250 discharges and we saw an improvement   in the acidity loads at about 50 percent of nthose sites we saw an improvement in the iron and   manganese loads in a large number of those sites nas well less than one percent we saw a failure   the ohio department of natural resources division nof mineral resources management is very supportive   of these efforts of our coal mining industry to nconduct secondary recovery operations in a sound   environmental manner that improves the water nquality and landforms of impacted watersheds   we are working to create a regulatory nframework that provides incentives   and improves the permitting nprocess for these sites   this is critical to ohio operators and provides ncertainty within the permitting process   we want to provide a regulatory framework nthat will promote and not discourage reminding you
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Remining in Ohio

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