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WV receives $140 million to clean up abandoned mine lands

Nadia Ramlagan

West Virginia will receive $140 million to clean up legacy pollution in regions decimated by decades of coal mining.

The money is part of $725 million in Abandoned Mine Land funding that the Biden Administration is providing to more than two dozen states.

According to state data, more than 150 years of coal mining has left thousands of mines abandoned for decades.

In addition to restoring the natural landscape, reducing the odds of landslides and improving drinking water, repurposing old mine land can bolster local economies, but first they have to be cleaned up, said Eric Dixon, a senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, “making them places that everyday people can enjoy without fear of some hazard, like an abandoned mineshaft or an unreclaimed strip mine.”

The funding is the third in a series of federal investments in abandoned mine land funding allowed through the bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021.

Dixon said advocates are pushing for good-paying, family-sustaining jobs created by the expansion of reclamation work.

“The Biden administration has called for these remediation jobs to be good-quality union jobs,” he said. “We’ve started to see some of the first union contracts awarded in states like Kentucky and Ohio, and that’s extremely encouraging.”

He said state agencies will funnel the money into projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes and improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage.

“Those agencies, they’ll identify those projects, they’ll design reclamation projects,” he said, “and then they’ll actually bid out that reclamation contract to a construction contractor who will execute the work.”

According to the group Appalachian Voices, mountaintop removal mining has destroyed an estimated one million acres in Central and Southern Appalachia.