These Office of Surface Mining's Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards are presented to abandoned mine land reclamation programs that completed exemplary reclamation. The objective is to give public recognition to those responsible for the nation's most outstanding achievement in land reclamation and to encourage the exchange and transfer of successful reclamation technology. You can find more information about the awards on the Office of Surface Mining's web page at http://www.osmre.gov/programs/awards/AMLAwards.shtm
The 2016 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards were presented in Bozeman, Montana, during the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs' annual conference. The awards and winners are:
National Award - Montana
The Sand Coulee Water System Restoration Project mitigated persistent water shortages and drinking water contamination in a former coal mining community located near Great Falls, Montana. From the late 1880s through the 1940s, Sand Coulee mines supplied coal to the Great Northern Railway. Acid mine drainage discharging from the mines contaminated streams and groundwater, and the mines dewatered the sandstone aquifer used by the community. Coal wastes were used as backfill materials for the water distribution piping. The piping was thin walled plastic pipe and suffered a recurring pattern of breaks. Since the 1950s the community endured recurring water shortages and coal wastes entering their potable water.
The restoration project included installation of an 800-foot water supply well and water rights permitting for the community. The new system included over 8,900 feet of new water main pipe, 22 fire hydrants, construction of a new 150,000 gallon storage tank, and construction of a new well house building with modern controls. The new water system incorporated Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and internet controls offering innovative technology allowing the District to monitor well water levels, the tank level, and pumping data. The water shortages and the impacts from coal wastes have been alleviated.
Prior to the AML reclamation project, the community was stuck in a position with few viable options to solve their water system problems. The community did not have economic or technical resources to locate, develop, and obtain legal rights for a new source of potable water. This project was successful in addressing these needs enhancing the community of Sand Coulee.
Small Project Award - North Dakota
The Halleck Mine operated five miles north of Bowman, North Dakota, from 1919 until 1944. The 30-40 feet thick coal seam lies about 50 feet below surface with mostly soft overburden. Collapse of this underground mine caused many deep sinkholes that were a serious hazard to the public.
In 2014, local authorities reported several large and dangerous sinkholes within 70 feet of two public roads and within 90 feet of the TransCanada Bison Pipeline, a 30-inch interstate natural gas transmission pipeline. The sinkholes also severed a fiber optic telecommunication cable. The AML Division filled these sinkholes in a 2014 emergency project.
North Dakota AML Division conducted a 2015 drilling and grouting project to stabilize roads and pipeline still threatened by mine collapse. The location of the Bison Pipeline near the entry to the Halleck Mine increased the difficulty of the project. TransCanada contributed to the success of the project by providing valuable consultation and conducting a subsurface geophysical survey near the pipeline.
Drilling near the pipeline helped verify that the mine entry tunnel was likely excavated when the Farm to Market Road was improved and paved several years ago. Therefore, no drilling or grouting was required inside the 50-foot pipeline easement; but grout injection near the pipeline was closely monitored.
The AML Division used a borehole camera and video an open mine tunnel with failing support timbers directly beneath one road and large open mine voids less than 60 feet beneath the ditch of another road. Approximately 4,500 cubic yards of cementitious grout were pumped to stabilize underground mine voids at the Halleck Mine Site. This successful project was a collaborative effort between the North Dakota AML Division and many interested shareholders.
Appalachian Regional Award - Pennsylvania
The judges selected the reclamation of a dangerous refuse pile and surface burning condition in Mather, PA. The reclamation of the 70 acre AML site addressed a variety of problems posing both a threat to public health and safety as well as causing significant environmental degradation to the South Fork of Tenmile Creek located along the pile. Partnerships with Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR), Greene County Industrial Development Authority (GCIDA), OSMRE and other state and local officials facilitated the completion of the project. Over 250,000 C.Y. of certified soil sediment covering material from PA DCNR's Duke Lake Project was transported to Mather through a memorandum of agreement between PA DEP-BAMR and PA DCNR to cover the pile. Now with the pile regraded to a permanent stable condition, with over two feet of superior soil covering material that is abundant with vegetation, the pile is not a hazard and can be developed for economic and recreation uses. The surface burning condition has been quashed and the adjacent South Fork Tenmile Creek is no longer being contaminated with acid runoff. The hydraulic capacity of the floodway has been restored to accommodate high flow volume events without the risk of any refuse slides being deposited within the watercourse. The reclamation project also directly improved the general welfare and social economic hardships that the coal industry left on the small company town that it produced. Over 700 residents of Mather and visitors will be able to enjoy the planned recreational redeveloped use of the property. The resultant reclamation of the pile provides an outstanding example of what can and is being accomplished through the AML Program here in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.
Mid-Continent Regional Award - Illinois
This project abated a mine subsidence pit that resulted in the closure of two lanes of a highly traveled state route connecting Belleville and many other communities within the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Nearly 26,000 vehicles make their daily commute on this four-lane divided highway. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) contacted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Mines and Minerals Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation Division (AMLRD) and as a team the two agencies abated the potentially life threatening situation.
The AMLRD determined that previous voids discovered by IDOT beneath the pavement were due to coal-mine subsidence (pit-type). As part of the inspection, IDOT assisted the AMLRD by drilling two exploratory holes. One hole, drilled outside the affected area, was to determine the embankment fill and soil thickness above the top of rock. A second hole, drilled near the center of the affected area, discovered 56 feet of soft clayey silts near liquid limit, with flowing characteristics.
The first phase of this project stabilized the near surface soils by excavating a 17 by 25 foot area to a depth of 20 feet and replacing the disturbed soils with 330 cubic yards of Controlled Low Strength Material (CLSM) at a cost of ¤37,000. The CLSM plug provided a stable surface upon which Phase 2 operations could be conducted safely and created a solid subsurface for the rebuilding of the highway. Phase 2 included drilling and pumping of 500 cubic yards of cement grout to fill the mine voids, followed by compaction grouting the loose soil and rock debris from mine level up to the base of the CLSM at a cost of ¤282,000. IDOT and AMLRD conducted the initial joint investigation on August 29, 2014, reclamation started on September 15 and by October 30, 2014 the project was completed.
Western Regional Award - Navajo
In November 2014, the Navajo AML Reclamation Program (NAMLRP) successfully extinguished a subsurface coal fire five miles southwest of Coyote Canyon, NM. The fire area lies within Navajo Trust Lands, Coyote Canyon Chapter Boundaries. According to the families that reside near the project area, the burning coal seam has been burning since the 1930s, previously called the Jack Tom Mine. The Coyote Canyon fire likely started naturally. NAMLRP partnered with Koveva Ltd., a consulting firm from Colorado specializing in underground coal fire characterization. NAMLRP developed technical specifications to address the fire and subsidence areas. This required excavation of the burning coal seams, so that the fire can be quenched with a combination of ChemGuard Extreme firefighting agent and water. The Navajo Nation has been in severe drought for the past several years; thus, transporting water using tanker trucks was required and adding the firefighting agent to increase the effectiveness. The final contouring geomorphic concept was implemented and most of the overburden material was used to construct two sediment retention structures that was proven successful in capturing limited precipitation. NAMLRP is confident that this reclaimed site will be stable for decades to come. NAMLRP would like to thank the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Coyote Canyon Chapter, the local land users, Navajo Archeology, Navajo Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Navajo EPA, Navajo Land Department, Navajo Resource Enforcement, Clawson Excavation Inc., Dodge Environmental, and Koveva LTD for all their hard work and dedication in keeping Navajo families healthy and safe. This project followed SMCRA and NEPA guidelines and gave NAMLRP a very valuable example of how to address a coal outcrop mine fire. The local families were extremely supportive throughout the entire project and during the final inspection expressed complete approval by giving the entire team thumbs up.
Previous Award Winners