Strip-mining brings to mind eye soars upon our beautiful landscape of our earth. Most people
only see the signs of destruction. Strip-mining has a bad rap, or does it? Could be people are still living
in the past and don't know about regulation that is in place to protect the environment. Look beyond the
past and look at what has come to bring back the environment in areas of this country.
Strip-mining is the removal of a material from the ground for use in Industry. They get at this
material by removal of soil and rock down to the desired material of choice, which is usually coal. There
are other materials mined in this way, they include gold, copper, and rock crushed into gravel. This basic
method of removing the minerals has been going on for thousands of years. Waste rock comes from the removing
of the material or earth to get at the coal.
At the U.S. Department of the Interior mine regulation reporter conference on mining & the environment,
in Colorado Springs 1997 Kathy Karpan said these words, "Some wanted to ban surface mining outright. Others
claimed national regulation of surface coal mining would cripple or kill domestic coal output. You know what?
They were both wrong!"(1). Kathy said this at a conference to bring forth what people may say about the mining
industry. She proceeded to talk about her past. Kathy had grown up in a mining town; she also had seen the
major problems that plagued the industry. Kathy has been a journalist against the industry and has worked for
clean up and regulation to save the environment and workers from the dangers of mining. Kathy is currently the
director for the Office of Surface Mining or OSM.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 was voted by congress into law. Now after
twenty plus years, the SMCRA has shown that the environment, workers, regulation, and industry can live together
with out destroying each other. The environment is being improved due to laws. Water from some of the biggest
mining states is now within the nations water standards for drinking. Workers are trained more and safety is in
the for front of mining processes. Industry has more production and fewer companies around for competition in
addition to being more efficient in mining.
Some of the regulations that have come from SMCRA include studies done on the environment before, during,
and after mining. Once a new mine is approved it has monthly visits of the site and is tested by using samples
around the site and down stream. These tests are done by the government and are checked by outside sources.
Tests are paid by a tax on the tonnage of coal sold. In 1995, the tax raised about $4.5 billion. This money is
used to monitor mines, testing mining sites, pay for clean up of abandoned mines, and audits of properly cleaned
Strip-mining companies have changed due to government laws. The laws are aimed at fixing and improving
the environmental quality and making mining ethical. Due to the government laws, new companies have formed to
make new products. A lot of small mining operations have gone out of business because of the increasing costs of
mining. For this reason, companies have put more resources into developing and buying new machines for mining coal.
The new machines being used are more efficient, more reliable and safer for workers. With more efficient machines,
older and abandoned mines now can go back into production. However, when they go back into production they in
turngo in and clean up environmental problems. These old abandoned mines are being cleaned up by a tax on coal.
Usingmore modern practices of controlling run off, the coal is removed and then land is reclaimed back
Modern practices and reclamation are ways of controlling pollution in the environment. Once the trees
are removed, the topsoil is moved to one side of the site. The soil mound is planted with local area plants to
keep erosion to a minimal amount. All of the rock that is removed to get at the coal is placed into piles.
The Department of Environmental Protection describes treatment of these piles in this way. "As early as 1978,
many variations of AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) passive treatment systems were studied by numerous organizations
on the laboratory bench-testing level. During the last 15 years, passive treatment systems have been implemented
on full-scale sites throughout the United States with promising results. The concept behind passive treatment
is to allow the naturally occurring chemical and biological reactions that aid in AMD treatment to occur in the
controlled environment of the treatment system, and not in the receiving water body. Passive treatment conceptually
offers many advantages over conventional active treatment systems. The use of chemical addition and energy
consuming treatment processes are virtually eliminated with passive treatment systems. Also, the operation and
maintenance requirements of passive systems are considerably less than active treatment systems. An aerobic
wetland consists of a large surface area pond with horizontal surface flow. The pond may be planted with cattails
and other wetland species. Aerobic wetlands can only effectively treat water that is net alkaline. In aerobic
wetland systems, metals are precipitated through oxidation reactions to form oxides and hydroxides. This process
is more efficient when the influent pH is greater than 5.5. Aeration prior to the wetland, via riffles and falls,
increases the efficiency of the oxidation process and therefore the precipitation process. Iron concentrations
are efficiently reduced in this system but the pH is further lowered by the oxidation reactions. A typical
aerobic wetland will have a water depth of 6 to 18 inches. Variations in water depth within the wetland cell may
be beneficial for performance and longevity. Although shallow water zones freeze more quickly in winter, they
enhance oxygenation and oxidizing reactions and precipitation. Deeper water zones provide storage areas for
precipitates but decrease vegetative diversity."(2). The water that collects in the hole, pit, or mining site is
also treated in wet land ponds.
Another key to reclamation is that once the coal is gone from the strip-mining the mining site needs
to be returned to a natural state. To do this, they take the pile of removed rock and place it back into the
mining site. After the rock in back in, there still may be a need for more material. One of several options
can be done to solve this problem. One product that comes from a soil chemistry specialist named Terry Logan
that works at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). The product name is N -Viro soil.
It's made from waste such as ashes (burning of coal), and local sludge (sewage treatment waste) and is treated
with chemicals that remove metals from the waste. Then this waste is just like potting soil and is used on
farms, and mixed into the top soil for fill. This frequently used by the mining industry, to contour the land
to look like the surrounding area. They do this by making it look like a little valley, hillside, or
mountaintop and put the topsoil back over the rock and plant local plants. Most of these are in wilderness
areas and make great grassland for deer.
Strip-mining in today's world is a very environment friendly. These rules by government, federal
and states both have brought this about. The mining industry has been reborn to an environmental friendly
business. Sciences have brought new process and products to the market that help or improve the environment.
No longer is strip-mining an eye soar on the landscape but instead a short-term disruption of local wild life.
31) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING, DIRECTOR REMARKS OF KATHY KARPAN,TO THE
MINE REGULATION REPORTER CONFERENCE ON MINING & THE ENVIRONMENT, COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, NOVEMBER 4, 1997: kk1104.
http://www.osmre.gov/kk1104.txt 2) Tom Ridge, Governor James M. Seif, Secretary Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Protection, The Science of Acid Mine Drainage and Passive Treatment, Last modified: September 15, 1999 01:43:35 PM
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/minres/bamr/amd/science_of_AMD.htm 3) PUBLIC LAW 95-87 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 An unofficial OSM compilation
of P.L. 95-87 and all revisions through Dec. 31, 1993
http://www.osmre.gov/smcra.htm 4) Ohio State University agricultural, OARDC Annual Report, Reclaiming land using ashes and wastes
http://www2.ag.ohio-state.edu/~cfaes/res-97/oardc_19.html 5) Kentucky state, Ancient Gift Serving Modern Man American Coal Foundation Strict Regulations GovernCoal Mining