September 2, 2019 - The 2019 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards were announced by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), for outstanding achievements and techniques in reclaiming lands previously mined. Five winning projects were chosen through votes from state and tribal reclamation officials along with OSMRE managers. OSMRE presents the awards on September 9 at the conference of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs in Pittsburgh.
OSMRE, a bureau of the Department of the Interior, recognizes annually the efforts of regulatory agencies and partner companies in reclamation projects at coal-mined lands that were abandoned under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, the first federal law to regulate the environmental effects of coal mining in America.
The 2019 National Award for the overall highest-rated reclamation goes to the Dessecker Mine Project. On their land situated in Tuscarawas County in eastern Ohio's Appalachian region in 1947, the twin-brother owners began strip mining for coal, and eventually, opened underground mines. But some 60 years later, prior to reclamation, OSMRE noted the site was jeopardized with acid mine drainage, open mine entrances, hazardous equipment and dilapidated mining structures. The site had became legendary, known by another moniker as Ohio’s Hidden Mine.
Ownership of the land changed hands in 2007, acquired by the Camp Tuscazoar Foundation, the adjacent land owner and camp operator.
By 2017, a reclamation plan was in place, and work began on the former coal mining portion of the land. As diligently reported by the local TimesReporter.com, the project sealed the mine entrances; eliminated an unsafe highwall that averaged 70 feet in height and spanned 1,750 feet; removed 500 tons of debris and 25 tons of tires; restored nearly 1,400 feet of stream channel; preserved historically significant mining assets; and recorded digital video for preservation. Also, in the spring of this year, more than 240 community volunteers planted 5,000 seedlings in one day, a remarkable reforestation effort that will control erosion of the massive earthwork performed during reclamation.
OSMRE's National Award will be presented to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for the leadership and guidance of their Division of Mineral Resources Management’s Abandoned Mine Land Program. “Restoring this land clears the way for safe and fun recreation for generations to come,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz in a released statement.
The four other winners of the 2019 OSMRE awards are:
- Interior Region 1 Award: Roger Cornett Slide, Kentucky Department for Natural Resources
- Interior Region 3 Award: Narrow Lake AML Site 1805, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
- Interior Region 7 Award: Wise Hill Underground Fire Mitigation, Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety
- Small Project Award: Marvel Gob Fire, Alabama Department of Labor