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Report Identifies Redevelopment Projects for Abandoned Coal Mine Sites

Thousands of abandoned coal mine sites remain scattered throughout Appalachia. (Adobe Stock)
Thousands of abandoned coal mine sites remain scattered throughout Appalachia. (Adobe Stock)
November 15, 2019

WHITESBURG, Ky. – A coalition of groups in central Appalachia has identified projects that would clean up and re-purpose 19 abandoned coal-mine sites in four states.

Rebecca Shelton, coordinator of policy and organizing at the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center, explains the Abandoned Mine Land pilot program is funded with federal grant money that's being given to qualifying states to invest in reclamation.

"But also to invest in development of these sites to contribute to community wellbeing, community projects and also, economic development in the region," says Shelton.

Abandoned coal sites in Appalachia continue to pose threats to public health and stall economic growth in some areas. Among the redevelopment proposals – a new wellness center and pool for the Pikeville Area Family YMCA in Pike County, and the first commercial composting facility in West Virginia.

Shelton points out that previous efforts to reuse old mine sites often resulted in "cookie-cutter" projects, like shopping centers or industrial parks. She says groups and communities are thinking more carefully about which types of investments would offer the most benefits in terms of health, quality of life, and long-term economic impact.

"The goals are really to fund what we describe as innovative reclamation projects, to increase the capacity to support innovative mine reclamation, and similarly, support a regional community of practice around reclamation and the restoration economy," says Shelton.

Shelton adds many people in the region who have ideas for a new business or project may not be aware that these types of programs exist.

"I mean, part of this work is just really getting the word out about this program, that it's an opportunity that exists," says Shelton. “And this is how you go about doing it, and we're there to help."

In addition to the Abandoned Mine Land Pilot program, the RECLAIM Act, now pending in Congress, would help communities in the region access around $1 billion to clean up mine sites and fund revitalization projects.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY