Government to improve mining-related environmental quality

The US Departments of Energy and of the Interior are to collaborate to improve the environment around many of the US's current and past mining operations.

The five-year partnership will focus on the cleanup and possible use of the vast amounts of waste coal in disposal ponds and refuse piles at mine sites and coal preparation plants. As much as 3 billion tons of fine coal particles – equivalent to 8 to 12 billion barrels of oil – have been discarded in about 6,000 waste piles and ponds throughout coal producing states.

Another task will be the prevention of acid mine drainage and the cleanup of rivers affected by runoff from mining operations closed before passage of the Surface Mining Act of 1977. Other areas could include new approaches to the detection and control of mine fires, the disposal of coal combustion by-products, and the preservation of the hydrological balance in the soils and underlying rocks around coal and hard rock mines.

Under the agreement, the Energy Department’s Federal Energy Technology Center (FETC) and

the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) will share technical services, expertise, and information.

Once the two federal agencies decide on a specific slate of projects, the work will be done primarily by FETC researchers from the centre’s Pittsburgh, Pa., and Morgantown, W. Va., offices, and OSM’s Greentree, Pa., office.

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