DEP Mining Official Underscores Importance of Commitment to Abandoned Mine Reclamation

INDIANA – The unregulated mining practices of the past have left southwestern Pennsylvania with challenges, but under Gov. Edward G. Rendell, the state is addressing those economic and environmental issues and working to restore the state’s natural treasures, according to the state’s top mining official.

“All across the state, we’ve worked hard to turn the mining-scarred land remnants of Pennsylvania’s past into safe areas that create economic opportunities and add to the quality of life here,” said Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources Scott Roberts, who attended today’s quarterly Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation meeting. “Here in western Pennsylvania, where mining has a long history, the state has invested nearly $90 million since 2003 to reclaim abandoned mine lands and restore acid mine damaged streams in the 24 counties represented by this coalition.”

Roberts pointed to abandoned mine reclamation projects in western Pennsylvania that were recently awarded contracts through DEP, including a $232,000 project in Rayne Township, Indiana County. Others include:

• $777,600 to stop acid mine drainage (AMD) and reclaim an abandoned mine in Benezette Township, Elk County;

• $653,000 to fund nearly 120,000 cubic yards of grading on an abandoned mine along state route 3011, install piping and stop AMD in Irwin Township, Venango County; and

• $86,500 for grading, ditch excavation, seeding and installing lining and filter material at a project in West Liberty Borough, Butler County.

“Despite this substantial investment, much work remains,” said Roberts. “That’s why Governor Rendell pushed so hard to persuade Congress to reauthorize the federal Abandoned Mine Lands Fund, which now, will provide increased funding for this important environmental initiative over the next 15 years.”

The federal Abandoned Mine Lands Fund program directs money to states that have abandoned mine lands to reclaim, and is funded by a tax on current mining activities. Pennsylvania will receive $27.6 million from the program for 2008, up to 30 percent of which can be used for treating abandoned mine drainage that makes streams uninhabitable for fish and other aquatic life.

Recent media reports incorrectly stated that the commonwealth will not to fund abandoned mine drainage projects in the future, but Roberts disputes those claims and said that these projects will continue to be funded through the department’s abandoned mine reclamation program this year and beyond.

“The additional money means cleaner waterways for Pennsylvania, more dangerous high walls will be eliminated, mine openings will be closed, scarred mine lands will be replanted with trees and vegetation, and miles of acid drainage tainted streams will be restored,” said Roberts. “We’re continuing to engage the public, and stakeholders like WPCAMR to determine how best we can use our available resources to reclaim abandoned mines and clean up streams tarnished by AMD.”

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