Technology Development and Transfer (TDT)
Applying Science and Technology
One of the ways that the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) 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 of 1977 (SMCRA).
Developing and transferring technology is an integral part of OSMRE’s mission to provide support to state and tribal SMCRA programs. Through the development of new technologies and scientific advances, and the communication of these technologies to users through training, workshops, forums, publications, and the Internet, Technology Development and Transfer supports OSMRE’s core functions. A sound technology development and transfer program ensures that the most current and valid scientific information and technologies are available to the coal industry, state and tribal staff who carry out SMCRA, and to OSMRE employees. Advancement of this technology will result in better mining and reclamation practices, leading to higher-quality environmental protection and fewer off-site impacts.
National and Regional Teams
The National Technology Transfer Team (NTTT) leads the bureau's efforts in working to achieve the goals of the Technology Development and Transfer program. Regional teams, comprised of OSMRE employees and state and tribal staff from within that region also function to approach issues from a regional perspective as well as support the national effort. For more information on OSMRE's Technology Transfer teams, upcoming events, meeting minutes, and more, see our National and Regional Teams page.
TDT Areas of Focus
- Acid Drainage Technology Initiative (ADTI)
- Acid Drainage Technology Initiative (ADTI) Acid mine drainage (AMD) has been a detrimental by-product of coal mining for many years. At present, acid mine drainage continues to pose a potential problem in some areas, despite improved prediction and prevention techniques.
- Applied Science
- Projects that develop and demonstrate improved technologies to address public safety and environmental issues related to the mining of coal and reclamation of the lands affected after mining.
- Bat Conservation
- OSMRE has several initiatives to protect threatened and endangered bats at coal mines, as required by SMCRA and the Endangered Species Act. We chair a steering committee composed of Federal, State, and private stakeholders that provides a means for discussion of current topics and issues involving bats. We also sponsor technical forums on a variety of topics related to bat conservation. In addition, we are involved in the development of guidelines for Protection and Enhancement Plans for listed species.
- Blasting is an integral part of surface mining operations. To uncover coal reserves, the rocks overlying the coal are broken with explosives and excavated with various types of large earth-moving equipment. Without blasting, a vital part of the nation's energy reserve would be inaccessible. Blasting is one of the most frequent complaints received by OSMRE.
- Coal Combustion Residues (CCRs)
- Coal Combustion Residues (CCRs), more commonly known as coal ash, is a byproduct of the combustion of coal at power plants which is disposed of in liquid form at large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills. Research into the safest methods of disposal, as well as potential benefits of other uses for CCR is being conducted. OSMRE is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop effective federal regulations to ensure that the placement of coal ash in minefill operations is adequately controlled.
- Dam Safety
- Approaches to Dam Safety have evolved throughout the years because of knowledge gained through dam failures. Dam Safety Programs have become a significant element in many agencies to ensure protection of the public and the environment by reducing risks associated with dams.
- GeoMine is a web-based Viewer (GeoMine Viewer) developed by OSMRE in collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), and coal mining regulatory authorities in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. GeoMine supports the decision-making processes associated with surface coal mining activities by improving accessibility to data, improving the timely delivery of authoritative information, and enhancing understanding of geospatial data at various scales.
- Geomorphic Reclamation
- Traditional approaches to mined land reclamation frequently disturb the stability of the existing natural landforms and add expensive and often times unnatural measures to try to fix the resulting problems. Hills and valleys are flattened out into uniform slopes or terraced to create stable land forms. Streams are often replaced by rock lined ditches or removed entirely. Due to today’s modern advances in technology it is now possible to quickly and inexpensively design stable landforms and streams that mimic both the look and the functionality of nature. Using modern design tools and the geomorphic reclamation approach it’s possible to reclaim highly disturbed lands and create fully functional natural systems virtually indistinguishable from their surrounding landscapes. Steep rock lined ditches are replaced by meandering streams and uniform or terraced hillsides are replaced by slopes that look natural yet are specifically designed to efficiently convey water without excessive erosion or sediment loading.
- A GIS-based analysis capability allows OSMRE to more effectively examine national and local coal-mining and environmental implications. By implementing geospatial technologies, processes, and data analysis, OSMRE and our SMCRA partners will be able to make better decisions and more effectively inform and involve the public in SMCRA-related decisions. GeoMine is one Geospatial effort.
- Mine Fires
- Fires are burning within underground coal seams around the world, sending tons of soot, toxic vapors and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, polluting ground water and leading to mine subsidence as the coal is consumed. In the United States a fire in an underground coal seam in Colorado sparked a blaze that scorched more than 12,000 acres of forest, destroyed two dozen homes, and threatened the resort town of Glenwood Springs.
- According to OSMRE's Abandoned Mine Land Inventory System (e-AMLIS), in 2013 there were 98 underground mine fires in 9 states. This is considered to be an underestimate for the actual number of fires nationwide.
- Mine Maps
- National Mine Map Repository (NMMR)
- NMMR acquires maps through public outreach directed at state and Federal environmental agencies as well as mining companies, engineering and consulting firms, surveying companies, universities, and private citizens.
- Underground Mine Mapping (UGMM)
- The Underground Mine Mapping initiative is a partnership to further the preservation, archiving, and distribution of underground mine maps between OSM, IMCC, and in turn, coal mining state agencies. This partnership works together as the UGMM Steering Committee and is coordinated through the IMCC. The UGMM Steering Committee has worked together on cooperative agreements, development of consistencies with regard to the preservation, archiving, and distribution of mine maps, and to provide technology transfer amongst the states with abandoned/active coal mines.
- National Technical Training Program (NTTP)
- OSMRE established the National Technical Training Program (NTTP) in 1985, recognizing the need for an ongoing educational program to increase the technical competence and professionalism of Federal, State, and Tribal personnel located in Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) agencies. The program delivers training related to permit approval, bond release, reclamation, and enforcement through a collaborative effort by OSMRE, State and Tribal instructors.
- OSMRE National Library
- The OSMRE Technical Library is a publicly available Federal resource which supports technical inquiries related to coal mining regulation documentation, and acquires and maintains research development publications and materials aimed at evaluating impacts associated with mining.
- The Technical Library operates as part of OSMRE to provide access to technical and legal information for the agency, states, tribes, industry, citizen groups and the public in upholding the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). It provides reference and research assistance and referrals to other libraries and agencies when necessary.
- Prime Farmland
- As the regulatory bureau over surface mining and surface impacts from underground mining, OSMRE's duty is to ensure that land, such as prime farmland, is preserved and can continue to be a valuable resource for the people of America.
- National Reforestation Effort
- OSMRE is examining methods that would enhance post mining land use plans that promote the planting of trees on active and abandoned surface coal mines. Benefits of reforestation are many and would include improving wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities, restoration of clean water resources, erosion prevention, and the creation of new economies based on forest products.
- Appalachian Region Reforestation Initiative (ARRI)
- The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) is a coalition of groups, including citizens, the coal industry, and government dedicated to restoring forests on coal mined lands in the Eastern United States.
- Technical Assistance
- The Technical Assistance program helps SMCRA program staff address complex mining problems such as water quality issues, mine subsidence, slope instability, and threatened and endangered species protection. Some states and tribes with only a few coal mines may not have or might not be able to afford to maintain the full complement of science and engineering expertise to deal with the breadth of issues encountered in regulating active operations and reclaiming AML sites. OSMRE regional and field office technical staff fill that need.
- Technical Innovation and Professional Services (TIPS)
- TIPS is the Technical Innovation and Professional Services, a national service that provides off-the-shelf scientific and engineering modeling software to the state, tribal, and federal offices that administer the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-87). TIPS also delivers comprehensive instructor-led and online training courses in the use of those tools. The training is developed in-house by state, tribal, and OSMRE experts and customized to mining and reclamation applications.
- Areas of note within TIPS:
- Software Support
- TIPS provides a core suite of off-the-shelf software to our SMCRA customers to assist them with the implementation of SMCRA. With this assistance, many state and tribal offices have the ability to use advanced scientific software, without the expensive cost of maintaining their own individual licenses and maintenance agreements.
- The TIPS Training Program is a collaborative effort between OSMRE, the States, and Tribes. Staff in these agencies that are funded under SMCRA are eligible to participate. TIPS training instructors are reclamation experts who use TIPS software to solve a wide range of complex permitting and abandoned mine land problems.
- The TIPS CAD Team/Workgroup includes members from the States and OSM who work together to provide a variety of services to TIPS customers. All members are proficient in the Autodesk and Carlson software provided by TIPS, and continually reviews changes and enhancements to the software packages. Team members oversee the distribution of and provide installation directions and assistance for new or updated software for TIPS customers, including managing and monitoring the software licenses. The team also creates, maintains and updates training materials for 6 courses in the TIPS Training Program, and provides instructors for scheduled TIPS courses and any requested on-site training. Further training assistance is made available by the group through online learning materials and tech support.
- Development of Geographic Information System (GIS) databases is a priority in the SMCRA community and TIPS continues to be at the forefront in training and support of this powerful technology. The GIS can produce information that answers specific questions and allows the sharing of that information with others. By visualizing relationships, connections, and patterns in data, more informed decisions with increased efficiency can be made. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in ways simply not possible in the rows and columns of a spreadsheet. Interesting and informative maps provide better decision making tools and analysis, and make a difference in our world.
- The TIPS Hydrology Software Team evaluates, tests, and delivers software, training, and technical guidance to our customers on hydrology-related issues. The Team includes members from states and OSMRE, and provides support in ground water, surface water, and water quality modeling and analysis, and statistical evaluation.
- Remote Sensing
- The TIPS Remote Sensing team and program began in 2001. The team adopted a new approach in 2014, becoming a community of practice, in which all team members share important roles and responsibilities without a team lead. Today, it continues to expand and improve support to OSMRE offices, States, and Tribes. Because of the continued technological growth in the remote sensing industry, including readily available remotely-sensed data and user-friendly software, TIPS customers have enhanced access to remote sensing products and support for their daily work activities.
- Mobile Computing
- The TIPS mobile computing team promotes and supports the use of innovative and effective mobile computing and geospatial technologies to facilitate monitoring and documentation of compliance in SMCRA business practices. The team provides the knowledge, software, and "seed" hardware to make geospatial data and tools available at the point-of -use. State-of-the-art mobile computing and geospatial technologies are being researched and tested with TIPS customers to ensure that the most appropriate tools are investigated and provided through TIPS core software/hardware services.
- Technical Studies
- Technical studies are funded in whole or in part by OSMRE and conducted by parties other than OSMRE. OSMRE often provides significant involvement in these projects to ensure that projects meet intended objectives.
- The Technical Studies program includes the Applied Science Program that has funded the development of new reclamation science and technology, the Underground Mine Mapping Program, which acquires historic underground mine maps that are then digitally reproduced to make them publicly accessible on the Internet, and the Data Conversion effort for greater governmental transparency and availability of mine permitting information.
- In 2002, OSMRE, AmeriCorps VISTA and local community non-profits initiated the award-winning OSMRE/VISTA Teams. The OSMRE/VISTA Teams have been recognized by federal, state, and local entities for their innovative partnerships originally designed to bring environmental and economic improvement to the Appalachian Coalfields and then later to the mining districts in the West.
- The OSMRE/VISTA Teams are two of very few non-profits bringing greater connection and collaboration between federal agencies and small rural communities. Founded in response to demands from watershed/community improvement groups in rural communities throughout the East and West, the work of the OSMRE/VISTA Teams supports a growing movement that is quietly bringing new vitality and new hope to these regions.