2014 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Award Winners
The Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Awards are presented to coal mining companies that achieve the most exemplary mining and reclamation in the country.
The National Awards are presented to coal mining companies for achieving exemplary mining and reclamation practices. A coal mining operation may be nominated for achievement in a specific aspect of reclamation, or for overall performance in meeting goals of the Surface Mining Law.
The Good Neighbor Awards are presented to coal companies that successfully work with the surrounding land owners and the community while completing mining and reclamation.
OSMRE Deputy Director Glenda Owens provided the keynote address and presented the awards on October 27th in Washington, DC, as part of the National Mining Association's 2014 Department of the Interior Awards Luncheon.
2014 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Awards Presentation Video
The winners of the 2014 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Awards
Mid-Continent Regional Award Winner: Mississippi Lignite Mining Company Active Mine Land Reclamation Project, Ackerman, MS
The judges felt that the Mississippi Lignite Mining Company’s Red Hill Mine (RHM) Company’s deserved recommendation for a National Award for their geomorphic techniques in utilizing naturally available materials for reconstructed stream bank stabilization. The RHM’s mining method involves the removal of 6 different lignite seams by the removal of the overburden and inter-burdens separating the seams. There are no naturally occurring, consolidated materials (i.e. rock) available for use at the Red Hills mine. The challenge for RHM was to develop and implement a stream restoration plan capable of stabilizing the stream reach while complying with surface coal mining, NPDES, and 404/401 regulations. The engineers allowed as much floodplain to be developed adjacent to the stream reach as possible while minimizing steep slopes within the surrounding, hilly reclaimed terrain.
By reconnecting a stream to the floodplain, the flashiness of the stream can be reduced while retaining more nutrients within the system. Once the floodplain of the stream was reclaimed, a sinous channel was developed and woody debris was emplaced along with the following:
- Large root-wads and logs salvaged from pre-mining operations were keyed into the banks to provide bank stability and aquatic habitat
- Riffle runs and pools were created to provide a variable habitat to support an aquatic ecosystem.
- The banks were vegetated and a mixed-hardwood riparian corridor was planted
In January 2012, approximately five-months after repairs were made to the stream, a baseline macroinvertebrate assessment was conducted within the reconstructed stream channel. Even though the post-repaired stream segment had only been functioning for five months, a number of different types of macro invertebrates were observed. Detected in the stream included; Ephemeroptera, Diptera, Chironomidae, Olgochaeta, Odonata, and Coleoptera. In addition, fish have been observed to have volunteered back into the stream.
Western Regional Award Winner: Cloud Peak Energy Antelope Coal Mine
The second National Award recommendation is for Cloud Peak Energy-Antelope Coal LLC (ACLLC) for their sustainable control of cheatgrass on western reclaimed lands through innovative husbandry practices. Antelope Mine has successfully overcome the challenge of establishing and maintaining a sustainable native plant community that will meet or exceed bond release criteria on cheatgrass dominated areas without the use of chemical treatments or re-farming reclamation. The mine has successfully transformed over 400 acres of cheatgrass dominated reclamation into sustainable native perennial stands that achieve the post-mining land use.
The techniques developed can be applied to cheatgrass impacted reclamation by other surface mining operations in the Intermountain West. The general concepts of integrating ecosystem based methodology to cheatgrass control have broad application to impacted lands in the Intermountain West. The use of these strategies will improve the ability to meet bond release criteria, improve species diversity and long-term habitat quality on mine land reclamation and in the Western United States.
Long-term benefits also include the means to improve habitat for sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse. Sage-grouse are an endangered species. Technology used at ACLLA has demonstrated the ability to improve establishment and retention of native desirable plant species. The reclamation efforts at the ACLLA demonstrate Cloud Peak Energy’s voluntary commitment to enhance the science of reclamation and improve biodiversity.
Good Neighbor Award Winner: Alpha Natural Resources of Elk Run Coal Company, Whitesville, WV
Alpha Natural Resources makes significant contributions each year to the communities by donating their time and equipment and resources for community projects to ensure children in the community are provided for at different times of the year.
Elk Run Coal Company, Inc. employs 530 people between their 5 deep mines, 2 belt mines, preparation plant and impoundment, all located in the Sylvester and Whiteville communities of Boone County, West Virginia. Last year, Elk Run donated $15,000 and used their equipment to install a scoreboard for the football field at Sherman High School. In addition, a handicapped swing was installed at Sherman Elementary to accommodate wheelchairs on the playground. Also, handicapped classrooms at Sherman High have been updated with tools that provide basic life skills to the handicapped. In total, over $2,300 was donated to update handicap classrooms, (e.g., refrigerator, sinks, range, counter tops, wall cabinets and other kitchen appliances).
Elk Run donated labor, equipment and materials to repair the softball field at Sherman High. The repairs included:
- Repaired and replaced drains in the infield to control water on the field
- Repaired the scoreboard after it was struck by lightning
- Regrading and dressed the infield
- Installed a new fencing guard rail around the entire field
- Repaired and painted the girls backstop and placed gravel under the bleachers
- Provided equipment, labor and materials to build a press box and concession stand for the football field.
Each year, Elk Run hosts a variety of programs that provide for needy children and families by providing food, clothing and other donations also called “Love Bags.” Over 5,000 Love Bags and hygiene items have been provided to the community and school children. During the holidays, hams are given to underprivileged children.
Elk Run recently helped finance a project by donating $57,450 to provide city water to the community of Blue Pennant, near Whitesville. This was a joint effort with the Boone County Commission and involved the installation of water lines from Rt. 3 to all residents of Blue Pennant.
Elk Run also converted a gymnasium into a shelter at the Sylvester city park and hand built picnic tables. A total of $120,000 in improvements was donated to the park by Elk Run.