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Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands

Title IV of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act

Restoring the Environment

Coal mining has been common in the United States for nearly two centuries. Prior to the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977, there was no regulatory oversight of coal operators or what happened to mines after mining stopped. As a result, millions of Americans live less than a mile from an abandoned coal mine. 

Abandoned Mine Land Program

The OSMRE Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program addresses the hazards and environmental degradation posed by legacy coal mines. While AMLs can be dangerous and unwelcoming, through reclamation, this land can find a new purpose.

Graphic displaying the fee rates per ton of coal produced since the implementation of SMCRA (August 3, 1977). The collected fees are used to fund the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program. From 1977 to 2007 surface mines paid 35 cents per ton, underground mines paid 15 cents per ton, and lignite mines paid 10 cents per ton. From 2008 to 2012 surface mines paid 31.5 cents per ton, underground mines paid 13.5 cents per ton, and lignite mines paid 9 cents per ton. From 2013 to 2021 surface mines paid 28 cents per ton, underground mines paid 12 cents per ton, and lignite mines paid 8 cents per ton. And from 2022 to 2034 surface mines are paying 22.4 cents per ton, underground mines are paying 9.6 cents per ton, and lignite mines are paying 6.4 cents per ton. Note, change in fees are the result of Congress amending the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

Title IV of SMCRA created the AML Reclamation Program which has been funded by a fee assessed on each ton of coal produced since August 3, 1977. As originally enacted, SMCRA authorized collection of the fee for 15 years. To sustain the program, Congress has amended SMCRA to change the structure of the fee three times and reauthorize fee collection eight times since its inception. Most recently, this was done in 2021 under the authority of Public Law No. 117-58 which adjusted the fee structure and extended OSMRE's fee collection authority through September 30, 2034.

From Fiscal Year 1977 through Fiscal Year 2020, a total of $11.674 billion has been collected in the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Fund. This total is divided as $1.548 billion for the United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds, $1.849 billion for OSMRE operation and AML emergencies, $2.213 billion as unappropriated balance, and $6.064 billion as AML grants to States and Tribes. The $6.064 billion of AML Grants is further divided into categories for Coal and Non-coal Construction ($3.945 billion), Project Design, Establishment of AML Programs, and Oversight Expenses ($1 billion), Administrative Costs ($451 million), Acid Mine Drainage ($410 million), and Undelivered Orders ($258 million).


Fees collected from active coal mines are managed by OSMRE and held in the AML Fund. Within the AML Fund, monies are classified as State/Tribal Share (50%), Historic Coal Share (30%), and Federal Expense Share (20%). The AML Fund is distributed as grants using preset formulas to Uncertified and Minimum Program States. Both Uncertified and Minimum Program states receive grants from the State/Tribal Share and Historic Coal Share. Additional funds are provided to minimum program states from the Federal Expense Share to ensure a minimum grant of $3 million each year. Additionally, OSMRE manages funds provided from the US Treasury. These funds are distributed though the AML grant process to Certified States and Tribes.

The AML Fund has collected $11.674 billion through a reclamation fee assessed on each ton of coal that is produced.

OSMRE has distributed $6.064 billion in AML grants to states and tribes from the collected fees. An additional $1.548 billion was transferred to United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Health and Retirement Funds, and $1.849 billion has been used for OSMRE operating expenses and AML emergencies. $2.213 billion of the AML Fund remains unappropriated.

For more information, see the most recent Status of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund report.

Each year, OSMRE calculates the specific proportion of AML grant funding to be awarded to each state and tribe. The 2006 SMCRA Amendments mandated this AML grant distribution process.

The distribution is determined using a pre-set formula authorized by SMCRA.

This formula takes into account AML fee collections, historic coal production, the various shares within the AML Fund (i.e. State/Tribal Share, Federal Expense Share, Historic Coal Share), the minimum program supplemental adjustments, the AML inventory and, any other special Appropriations Act provisions (e.g. sequestration).

Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization

The Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program (previously known as the AML Pilot Program) provides grants to the 6 Appalachian states with the highest amount of unfunded Priority 1 and Priority 2 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) sites and 3 tribes with AML Programs. Priority sites are determined using the e-AMLIS inventory data. 

    The intent of the AMLER Program is to explore and implement strategies to return legacy coal sites to productive uses.

    • For FY 2022, the following states will each receive $26.63 million: Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia
    • For FY 2022, the following states will each receive $10.652 million: Alabama, Ohio, Virginia
    • For FY 2022, the following Tribes will each receive $3.551 million: Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Crow Tribe

    These funds will be used to accelerate the remediation of AML sites while offering opportunities for economic revitalization and community development.

    To learn more about funding for FY 2022 AMLER projects, visit the Guidance for Project Eligibility Under the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program for FY 2022. This guidance document also includes information on real property and reporting requirements for all AMLER projects.

    NOTE: The FY 2022 guidance applies to all AMLER projects including the most recent fiscal year (FY 2022) and all previous years of the AMLER Program (FY 2016 – FY 2021)

    Reclamation in Action

    Each year, OSMRE honors the most exemplary AML reclamation projects. Learn about the previous AML Reclamation Award recipients.

    Interested in learning more about mine reclamation? Learn more about Reclamation in Action.

    Resources

    The Abandoned Mine Land Inventory System (e-AMLIS) is a computer system used to store, manage, and report on OSMRE's Inventory of Abandoned Mine Land Problems. This includes both problems in need of reclamation and those that have been reclaimed.

    Questions regarding e-AMLIS should be sent via email to osm-amlis@osmre.gov

    OSMRE establishes policies and procedures for evaluation of State and tribal abandoned mine land reclamation programs. To learn more, visit the OSMRE Oversight webpage.