OSMRE's Major Programs
Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands – Restoring the Environment
Title IV of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program is OSMRE’s largest program and one of OSMRE’s primary responsibilities under SMCRA. Since SMCRA’s enactment in 1977, the AML program has collected over $10.1 billion in fees from present-day coal production and distributed more than $7.6 billion in grants to states and tribes, mandatory distributions to the UMWA and OSMRE’s operation of the national program to reclaim land and waters damaged by coal mining before the law’s passage.
Despite remarkable achievements, more than $3 billion worth of High Priority health and safety coal-related abandoned sites remain in OSMRE’s inventory. Millions of Americans live less than a mile from abandoned coal mines. OSMRE and its state and tribal partners are also aware of areas overlying deep mines that are not listed in the inventory because they do not currently present a danger to life or property. These sites may become reclamation priorities as the old mines deteriorate and subside in the future.
In the early years, the AML program focused on the physical reclamation of hazards affecting coalfield communities. More recently, the program began working to reclaim the vitality of communities left impoverished and degraded by past coal mining. OSMRE employees are doing this in concert with watershed and community groups by assisting them with a variety of improvement projects to address local challenges.
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Regulating Coal Mines – Protecting the Environment
Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) balances the need to protect the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining with the Nation's need for coal as an essential energy source. It ensures that coal mining operations are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner and that the land is adequately reclaimed during and following the mining process. Most coal-mining states now have the primary responsibility to regulate surface coal mining on lands within their jurisdiction, with OSMRE performing an oversight role. OSMRE also partners with states and Indian tribes to regulate mining on Federal lands and to support states' regulatory programs with grants and technical assistance.
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Applying Science and Technology
Technology Development and Transfer Program
One of the ways that the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement balances coal production with environmental protection is by providing resources for technical assistance, training, and technology development. These activities support and enhance the technical skills that states and tribes need to operate their regulatory and reclamation programs in order to effectively implement the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
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