Mine Land Reclamation

To learn about our work with abandoned mine lands, watch this short video created by U of I film students and our partnership with the University of Iowa Office of Outreach and Engagement. 

Did you know that prior to 1977 and the passage of The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), there were no regulations to clean up strip mines once the mining operations ceased?

This means states with historic coal mining, such as Iowa, were left with pockets of barren “abandoned mines” for several decades.

Iowa has more than 12,000 acres of abandoned coal sites mined prior to 1977, largely concentrated in Mahaska and Marion Counties, but also present in Monroe, Van Buren, Wapello, and Davis Counties. Un-reclaimed abandoned mine lands are often high in acidity, poorly vegetated, and impair water bodies with acidic runoff.


A field day where attendees are learning about mine land reclamation

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship - Mines and Minerals Bureau is responsible for reclaiming “abandoned mine lands” in Iowa.  Reclamation is costly (often $15,000 - $20,000 per acre) and most successful when multiple partners help fund each project. Since 2006, Pathfinders has worked with local conservation groups to secure Watershed Cooperative Agreement Program grants from the Office of Surface Mining to help fund reclamation projects. To date, our organization has secured more $5.5 million to help the State of Iowa reclaim 63 sites.

AFTER RECLAMATION, a reclaimed area will blend into the landscape and look virtually the

Land reclamation in progress

Land reclamation in progress

same as undisturbed Iowa land. Don’t be fooled. Just underneath the surface, the soil remains fragile and susceptible to erosion. If not properly managed, acid-forming materials may resurface and soils may begin to erode.

View map of identified abandoned mine land sites in Mahaska, Wapello and Van Buren Counties.

Want to know more?

Check out this overview handout about abandoned surface mine reclamation in Iowa [Learn more]. You can also explore these best management practices for reclaimed areas:

Contact Blake for more information!