Land Reclamation Program

fact sheet

Missouri Geological Survey

Director: Carey Bridges, RG

More than 200 abandoned coal mine sites have operated in Missouri since the early 1800s. Regrettably, much of the mining was done at a time before government regulations required companies to restore the land. Abandoned mine land reclamation took a step forward in 1977 when the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 95-87, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, or SMCRA. The act outlined specific requirements for reclaiming lands mined after May 2, 1977. It also established programs and funding for reclaiming abandoned coal mine lands. In January 1982, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Land Reclamation Program received approval from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining to operate the abandoned mine land program and to conduct reclamation work in Missouri. The Land Reclamation Program also administers Missouri’s reclamation laws for active mines. The department is the administrative authority working through the Land Reclamation Commission.

Under SMCRA, state and tribal Abandoned Mine Land programs must give priority to reclaiming abandoned coal mines. However, Section 409 of the Act provides that, at the request of the Governor of the state or the head of the tribal body, non-coal reclamation projects may be undertaken before the priorities related to past coal mining have been fulfilled. Reclaiming such non-coal abandoned mine land sites must be necessary for protecting public health and safety from extreme danger, thereby meeting Priority I problem criteria.

  • Priority I: Protection of public health, safety and property from extreme danger of adverse effects of past coal mining practices.
  • Priority II: Protection of public health and safety from adverse effects of past coal mining practices that do not constitute an 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 Land Reclamation Program received approval to use abandoned mine land funds for closing Priority I non-coal shafts in Missouri in August 2001. To date, the program has closed more than 90 Priority 1 lead or zinc shafts.

Making Progress

The department’s Land Reclamation Program has made significant strides in eliminating public health, safety and environmental problems from past mining areas. Health and safety problems (Priority I and II) include dangerous piles of mine refuse 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.

Missouri completed its first reclamation project in November 1982. As of October 2012, a total of 159 projects consisting of 4,533 acres have been reclaimed in Missouri. Most projects were located on private land. Reclamation costs are solely the responsibility of the department at no cost to the landowner.

Abandoned Mine Land Funding

Missouri’s abandoned mine land program is funded by a federal tax on coal. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement collects a fee from producing coal companies. The office charges 28 cents per ton of surface mined coal and 12 cents per ton of coal mined underground. Money collected from coal mining is deposited into the Abandoned Mine Land allocations. Since 1987, the U.S. Congress has included a minimum base funding amount in the abandoned mine land appropriation to allow the states with significant coal mine problems, but limited coal production, to continue their programs.

Since 2007, Missouri received $1.5 million to $2.5 million per year in minimum base funding from the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund. In 2012, and for successive years through 2021, Missouri will receive not less that $3 million per year in minimum base funding.

Landowner Assistance

Most abandoned mine lands in Missouri do not require reclamation, naturally providing wildlife habitats and outdoor recreational opportunities such as fishing. However, the department offers technical assistance to owners of abandoned mine lands. Staff personnel can provide expertise in soils, revegetation and water quality. Assistance includes reclamation literature, workshops and on-site visits with landowners to discuss their problems and to improve revegetation and water quality of their property.

The department encourages the public to report the occurrence of vertical openings and recent subsidence events related to abandoned mines. For technical assistance or to report mine related problems, contact the department’s Land Reclamation Program at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-4041.

Land Reclamation Mission

To assure beneficial restoration of mined lands and to protect public health, safety and the environment from the adverse effects of mining within the state of Missouri.

Nothing in this document may be used to implement any enforcement action or levy any penalty unless promulgated by rule under chapter 536 or authorized by statute.

For more information