Mining is making tremendous strides in terms of working conditions and environmental impact, said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton at the U.S. National Mining Association’s MINExpo September 27 in Las Vegas.
“Once synonymous with manual labor and harsh conditions, the mining industry has been transformed into a high-tech business that uses sophisticated machinery and cutting-edge technology. Coal and mineral extraction and processing are more efficient and environmentally friendly than ever,” Norton told the 400 conference participants.
In one of the highlights of the conference, Norton, Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Director Jeff Jarrett, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Kathleen Clarke announced awards for community outreach, environmental stewardship, and reclamation.
The OSM awards recognize exemplary performance under the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act, which sets high standards for coal mining reclamation (restoring coal mine sites to a natural environmental state after mining activities cease). “The 2004 winners have gone well beyond simple compliance with the law; they illustrate outstanding initiative, dedication, and stewardship,” Jarrett said.
The BLM awards included the Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award and the Hardrock Mineral Award for Community Outreach and Economic Security. BLM’s hardrock mineral mining awards are selected annually by a panel of judges consisting of mining experts from the Department of Interior, other government agencies, and members of the general public.
Award winners included:
BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award
- Round Mountain Gold Corporation’s Manhattan Mine, located in Nye County, Nevada, for its innovative reclamation designs and its new technique for treating water used in the mining process.
- Ken and David Jeter, operators of the Connor Creek Mine in Baker County, Oregon, for creating a proactive program to reduce sediment runoff into Connor Creek, reestablishing native vegetation, and improving visitor safety.
BLM Hardrock Mineral Award for Community Outreach and Economic Security
Golden Sunlight Mines, Inc., in Whitehall, Montana, for being an exceptional corporate citizen concerned about the economic future of Whitehall. Golden Sunlight operators have donated generously to the local community, noted BLM.
OSM Director’s Award
Ruffner Mine in Logan County, West Virginia, for active mining reclamation that includes eliminating abandoned mine land problems, at no cost to the state or federal government, and returning the abandoned mine areas to hay and pasture use.
OSM National Awards
- The Black Beauty Coal Company’s Farmersburg Mine in Vigo and Sullivan counties, Indiana, for spreading more than double the amount of soil required by regulations on reclaimed land. As a result, the mining area has returned to agriculture, and there is virtually no sign of prior mining activity.
- San Juan Coal Company’s San Juan Mine in Waterflow, New Mexico, for using the most innovative grading technology and channel design that has been developed for western coal mining during the past 25 years. Slopes have been created with the same geological and environmental characteristics as surrounding undisturbed lands.
- TXU Mining Company’s Tatum Mine in Beckville, Texas, for turning a former mining area into five wetland areas. Native grasses and forbs were planted and more than 40 acres of hardwood species are now established. This wetland resource will provide the East Texas community with wildlife, fish, sediment retention, groundwater recharge, and diverse aesthetics for years to come.
- Patriot Mining Company’s Guston Run Mine in Pursglove, West Virginia, for using coal ash from a local power plant in an innovative way to solve draining problems that threatened its local reclamation project.
- Consolidation Coal Company’s Illinois Surface Mining Operations in Consol and Sesser, Illinois, for developing a special plow that enabled a successful return of a former mine area to prime farmland conditions.
- Shafer Brothers Construction’s Payne Mine in Pursglove, West Virginia, for using coal ash from a power plant to minimize acid mine drainage from the acid-producing layer just below the coal. The water discharges have met all effluent standards without treatment, and an excellent hay crop is being harvested on the land.
- Jacobs Ranch Coal Company’s Jacobs Ranch Mine in Wright, Wyoming, for creating wetlands at its Powder River Basin mine that are a valuable wildlife habitat and local vegetation area. The intermittent wetlands are used by waterfowl as well as antelope, deer, and elk. Also, a year-round habitat and seasonal water supply have been reestablished, even though mitigation is not required by the Army Corps of Engineers.
OSM Good Neighbor Awards
- Bronze Good Neighbor Award: The Coteau Properties Company’s Freedom Mine in Beulah, North Dakota, for designing and developing the Harmony Lake Wildlife Management Area. The 45-acre lake and 637-acre wildlife area were donated to the state of North Dakota.
- Silver Good Neighbor Award: Coal-Mac Incorporated’s Phoenix Surface Mines in Ragland, West Virginia, for initiating education programs at local schools on environmental issues.
- Gold Good Neighbor Award: Trapper Mining Incorporated’s Trapper Mine in Craig, Colorado, for building a fitness center–the only community health club in the county–and donating it to the local community college. Trapper Mining also provided personnel, machinery, and funds to construct nine holes of the Yampa Valley Golf Course and worked with community leaders and provided labor, machinery, and funds to build an athletic complex.
OSM “Best of the Best” Award
San Juan Mine in Waterflow, New Mexico, won the “Best of the Best” award for its work described above.
James Hoare ([email protected]) is managing attorney at the Syracuse, New York, office of McGivney, Kluger & Gannon.