Land Reclamation Program

Abandoned Mine Lands (AML)

Native grasses planted at the Prairie State Park reclamation project blend naturally into tallgrass prairie.
Native grasses planted at the Prairie State
Park reclamation project blend naturally into
tallgrass prairie.

Abandoned mine land reclamation took a giant step forward in 1977 when the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 95-87, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, or SMCRA. The act outlined specific requirements for the reclamation of lands mined after May 2, 1977. It also established programs and funding for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. In January 1982, Missouri received approval from the Office of Surface Mining of the U.S. Department of the Interior to operate the abandoned mine land program and to conduct reclamation work in Missouri. The Abandoned Mine Land, or AML, section is a part of the Land Reclamation Program, or LRP, which also administers Missouri's reclamation laws for active mines. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is the administrative authority working through the Land Reclamation Commission.

Barren, eroding mine lands are unstable and degrade water quality.
Barren, eroding mine lands are
unstable and degrade water quality.

Public Law 95-87 requires that the AML section reclaim the highest priority abandoned coal mine sites before addressing problems created by mining other commodities. Therefore, the AML section presently addresses only problems caused by coal mining. The order in which most abandoned mine land is reclaimed is determined by classifying the land into one of three categories:

Priority I
The protection of public health, safety and general welfare from extreme danger resulting from the adverse effects of past coal mining practices;

Priority II 
The protection of public health, safety and general welfare from the adverse effects of past coal mining practices that do not constitute extreme danger;

Priority III
Restoration of land and water resources and the environment previously degraded by the adverse effects of past coal mining practices.

The Abandoned mine land section has made significant progress in eliminating public health, safety and environmental problems from past mining areas. Health and safety problems (Priority I and II) include dangerous mine refuse piles and embankments, burning coal refuse, highwalls, subsidence, open shafts, hazardous mining facilities and polluted water used for agricultural and human consumption. Environmental problems (Priority III) include bare acidic spoils and coal refuse that pollute water through soil erosion, sedimentation and acid mine drainage.

The sudden opening of this abandoned mine shaft is a public safety issue.
The sudden opening of this abandoned
mine shaft is a public safety issue.

Missouri's first reclamation project was completed in November 1982. Most projects have been located on private land. Reclamation costs are solely the responsibility of the Abandoned Mine Land Section. However, landowners who purchased their land after 1977 and have reclamation conducted by AML on their property may be subject to a lien being placed on the property for any projected increase in land value. Owners who purchased abandoned mine lands prior to 1977 are not subject to a lien.

Abandoned Mine Land Funding
The Abandoned Mine Land section is funded by a federal tax on coal since 1978. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Enforcement and Reclamation collects from producing coal companies 35 cents per ton of surface mined coal and 15 cents per ton of coal mined underground. Money collected from coal mining is deposited into the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund. The Office of Surface Mining disperses these funds through grants to the states as directed by the U.S. Congress.

Acid-forming materials pollute Cedar Creek in central Missouri damaging aquatic ecosystems.
Acid-forming materials pollute Cedar
Creek in central Missouri damaging
aquatic ecosystems.

Missouri and other midwestern states have received decreasing amounts of abandoned mine land funds due to declining coal production since 1994.  The U.S. Congress has included a minimum base funding amount in the abandoned mine land appropriation to allow states with significant coal mine problems but with limited coal production to continue their programs.  Since 1994, Missouri has received the minimum funding amount of approximately 1.5 million dollars per year for abandoned mine land reclamation.

Tree planting like this bur oak can be very successful on abandoned mine lands, improving wildlife habitat and forest quality.
Tree planting like this bur oak
can be very successful on
abandoned mine lands, improving
wildlife habitat and forest quality.

Landowner Assistance
Most abandoned mine lands in Missouri do not require reclamation and provide wildlife habitat and outdoor recreational opportunities such as fishing. The Department of Natural Resources offers technical assistance to owners of abandoned coal mine lands. Staff personnel can provide expertise in soils, revegetation and water quality.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources encourages the public to report the occurrence of coal mine vertical openings and recent mine subsidence events.

For technical assistance or to report coal-mine related problems, please contact our office at the address listed below.

AML Emergency Program

AML Completed Projects

Bee Hollow Conservation Area Abandoned Mine Land Project Video

Stay Out Stay Alive Campaign
Kansas City Chief's Thomas Jones talks about being safe around abandonded quarries and mines.  Brought to you by the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration.