The Future of Reclamation

The 2017 PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference will be held June 21 & 22nd at the Best Western Genetti Hotel in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The Conference Planning Committee decided on the theme of “The Future of Reclamation in PA”. The conference is going to be located in the heart of the Wyoming Valley and the Northern Anthracite Coalfields. We have not been back to “The Diamond City” since our first regional conference that was held in June of 1996 at Wilkes University.

We are planning a full day tour of the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys’ abandoned mine drainage (AMD) and abandoned mine reclamation (AMR) projects.

We will share success stories, present challenges and highlight economic development construction projects on abandoned mine lands. Discussions will be held on the future of abandoned mine reclamation in PA and how we are going to address the countdown to the sunset of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Trust Fund: a fund created in 1977 by a small fee levied per ton of coal mined via the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to address economic and environmental devastation due to historic mining issues.

We anticipate hearing about the Governor’s agenda for the environment in relation to abandoned mines and reclamation. A new Federal administration will have already been set in motion. The future of coal mining directly affects the AML Trust Fund, not only in PA, but nationally. We need to continue to talk about economics, job creation potential, community revitalization, economic redevelopment opportunities, recreational opportunities, the decline of coal mining, the design and construction of mixed use industrial parks and educational opportunities for future workers (our youth) as we look to transition the Commonwealth’s degraded abandoned mine landscapes into new regional economies.

What does the future hold for abandoned mine lands in PA?

Well, our tour and presentations will highlight those benefits and give our attendees a firsthand look at progress and projects that have been made over the last few decades as well as some serious challenges in the Anthracite Region with some very large multi-colliery AMD discharges (upwords of 100 CFS, 45K GPM or 65 MGD depending on your preferred units of measure). The surrounding watersheds of Luzerne and Lackawanna County have their challenges, but they also have had opportunities that were taken to improve the local environment, land, and streams impacted by AMD.

We’re hoping that EPCAMR’s very own Program Manager, Michael Hewitt, will be able to have time to present over lunch on what he learned on a “once in a lifetime opportunity” tour with the Heinrich Böll Foundation around Germany’s anthracite and lignite mines to see how their economic sectors justly transitioned away from coal into more sustainable power base. The Foundation is a catalyst for green visions and projects, a think tank for policy reform, and an organization that maintains an international network of partners of which EPCAMR is now a part of. It is sure to make an excellent photo montage presentation of the places he visited showcasing the innovative conversions of former coal industry buildings and transformation of mine lands into technical parks and recreational landscapes connecting the formerly disjointed communites, if we can relieve him from some of his more technical duties that he has maintained so often for us at previous year’s conferences.

The Pennsylvania AMR Community is a very active constituency working on mine drainage issues and supporting the reclamation of our abandoned mine lands across PA.

Given our strength in the number, we are the ones who are taking back and reclaiming our communities in more ways than one and securing multiple sources of funding to do so and we have always appreciated the role and funding that the Commonwealth of PA has provided to support these efforts as our partner. Our ultimate goals collectively are many: clean water, reclaimed viable landscapes, sustainability, improved quality of life, job creation, local economic redevelopment opportunities out of mine-scarred lands, development of new energy sources, hydro-electric energy, geothermal energy, continued support of ARIPPA’s high-tech cogeneration plants for electrical generation and coal refuse bank removal, re-use of mine pool water to save fresh water reserves, creation of fish hatcheries, and the re-use of metal oxides for multiple markets.

These are our hopes for the future of reclamation. If we only had a crystal ball…

How we are going to get there collectively is what the Conference will discuss in the present. So, this year we are going to incorporate our ideas, successes, and partnerships into presentations and discussions that will model how the PA AMR Community can proactively address the future reclamation of PA’s abandoned mine lands, rivers, streams, and communities impacted by past mining practices.