Pathfinders Receives Grants for Mine Reclamation

Pathfinders Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. has received four $100,000 Watershed Cooperative Agreement grants from the Office of Surface Mining.  The grants will be used to help fund reclamation of the Behrle North and South Abandoned Mine Land (AML) sites in Wapello County, the Northup North AML site in Davis County, and the Blom AML site in Mahaska County.

These projects will reclaim approximately 97 acres and improve water flowing to tributaries of the Muchakinock Creek in Mahaska County, Salt Creek in Davis County, and the Des Moines River in Wapello County.  The construction of the projects are managed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; other partners include the Davis, Wapello, and Mahaska Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

“These areas are often an environmental calamity. So, each one we can help clean up really does make a difference,” says Pathfinders Executive Director Anna Bruen, “And it takes a team to get the job done. The landowners, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the contractors, and the state and federal agencies involved are all critical to the process and do an excellent job of working together to get the tasks accomplished as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Surface coal mines that ceased operations before 1977 were not required to be “reclaimed” by the operator once the mining stopped.  This means areas which were strip/surface mined for coal were often left with large barren piles of the overburden (the rock and soil that was covering the coal).

These “spoil piles” and unreclaimed mine lands present several environmental and aesthetic problems including exposed remnant coal leading to acid mine drainage that lowers the pH in receiving waterbodies. This negatively affects aquatic life and reduces biodiversity. Acidic soil on site does not support the growth of vegetation, so landscapes look barren and the soil continues to runoff without vegetation to hold it in place. The dangerous high piles and “highwalls” (the unexcavated face of exposed overburden) can be hazardous to people and animals traversing the site.  Iowa has reclaimed approximately 100 sites. Approximately 200 sites affecting 12-13,000 acres remain to be reclaimed.

To learn more about Pathfinders’ abandoned mine land reclamation work, visit here.