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OSM announces winners of 2020 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Awards

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World Coal,

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) has recently announced the winners of its 2020 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Awards. The awards are presented to the coal mining companies that achieve the most exemplary coal mine reclamation in the nation. Past winners have demonstrated a commitment to sound mining practices and effective reclamation plans that enhanced the post-mining use of the land.

“OSM is proud to recognize operators who exemplify what it means to balance coal mining and environmental protection,” said OSM Principal Deputy Director, Lanny E. Erdos. “Congratulations to these deserving winners and thank you on behalf of OSM for your commitment to the American people.”

The awards programme, established in 1986, is designed to encourage citizen and private sector involvement in the care of America’s resources, to recognise outstanding reclamation achieved by companies under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), to capture and infuse in others a spirit of commitment to restoring the land after it is mined for coal, and provide a catalyst for the transfer of new or innovative technology for wider use.

The winning projects went beyond the reclamation requirements of SMCRA to achieve superior results in returning a site to productive use after completion of mining. A team of judges reviewed the nominations and voted on projects based on the following criteria:

  • Difficulty of achieving reclamation under existing conditions.
  • Effectiveness of the on-site work.
  • Extent to which project exceeds the spirit and intent of SMCRA.
  • Increased public awareness of SMCRA.
  • Long-term benefit to the community.
  • Transferability of the on-site practice to other reclamation projects.

OSM honours mine operators in two categories for 2020

National Awards

This award is presented to coal mining companies for achieving the most exemplary mining and reclamation in the country. A coal mining operation may be nominated for achievement in a specific aspect of the reclamation, such as the design and implementation of sedimentation control practices, or for its overall performance in meeting the goals of SMCRA.

Good Neighbor Awards

The Good Neighbor Awards recognise mine operators who successfully work to benefit the surrounding landowners and the community while completing mining and reclamation.

2020’s awardees are both repeat winners.

National Award

Navajo Transitional Energy Co., North American Coal Co., Bisti Fuels Navajo Mine

San Juan County, New Mexico

This Navajo-owned mine held several areas that were already reclaimed to the most current reclamation techniques available when they were finished, going back more than 35 years. However, the reclamation would not support the use that tribal members envisioned; that of raising livestock, and as a watershed. At a cost of nearly US$14 million, the operator reconfigured the reclamation using a more current technique. The effort required a big investment in time, money and effort; the operator had to find and move more than 8 million y3 of material to fill a previously reclaimed mine pit. It then used geomorphic reclamation on a second site to restore two watersheds, improve sedimentation control, and reintroduce historic drainages that were cut off since 1980. In both areas, while the previous reclamation had been approved, the mine operator determined the reclamation techniques used previously were not conducive to the desired land use, nor to the environment. The judges cited this effort for going well beyond the requirements, spirit, and intent of the SMCRA.

This same mine operator won the 2019 Good Neighbor Award for supporting a post-secondary education programme, developing STEM career events at local schools, creating teacher workshops, funding internship and scholarship programmes, and working with academia to create a new species of plant that adapts to harsh New Mexican deserts for reclamation purposes.

Good Neighbor Award

Wolf Run Mining, LLC

Leer South Mine Complex

Grafton, West Virginia

Wolf Run Mining’s Leer South Complex carried out four projects that highlighted the company’s efforts as a good neighbour. Starting in 2017, the company went beyond the basic legal obligation to develop an emergency warning plan (EWP). In addition to writing the EWP, the mine operator held several briefings with local authorities, and performed multiple tabletop exercises to simulate potential emergencies, including a catastrophic failure of a coal slurry impoundment dam. This action exceeded federal and state requirements for emergency action planning to reduce potential loss of life and environmental degradation. The company cooperated with local authorities to plan for and provide an extension to the city’s current sanitary system, a project that will benefit an expansion to the mine, but also provide service for up to 90 new homes in the area. The company also established a community advisory panel to provide feedback between the company and citizens. Finally, the company took an innovative approach to mine water management to support the responsible use of water resources.

The Leer Mine Complex won the 2019 Good Neighbor Award for its efforts to reduce noise and visibility of its mining operations, installing centrifugal fans inside sound-insulated buildings to lessen noise levels for underground mine air supplies, and other activities.

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