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March 2006, VOL. 24, NO. 1

Bonding Roundtable to Follow IMCC 2006 Annual Meeting

Bismarck, North Dakota will be the site of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission’s (IMCC) 2006 Annual Meeting. The meeting will take place at the Radisson Hotel Bismarck from April 30 through May 3. A Bonding Roundtable session will follow the Annual Meeting.

The Bonding Roundtable discussions will commence on the afternoon of May 3 after conclusion of the Executive Commission Annual Business Meeting. The roundtable discussions will continue on May 4 with an executive session of the states.

For further information, visit the IMCC web site at www.imcc.isa.us (“Conference Info” link), or contact Beth Botsis at 703.709.8654.

IMCC Selects Recipients of the 2006 National Reclamation Awards

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently announced the recipients of its annual national reclamation awards. Named after the charter executive director of the Compact, the Kenes C. Bowling National Mine Reclamation Awards are presented each year to mining operations in the coal and noncoal categories that have demonstrated excellence in reclamation based on achievement in five categories: compliance; contemporaneous reclamation; drainage control; bond release (or reclamation success); and innovativeness.

The 2006 winner in the coal category is Paramount Coal Company Virginia, LLC, Black Bear #1 (Carrie Branch) located in Russell and Dickenson County, Coeburn, Virginia. The 2006 winner in the noncoal category is Vulcan Materials Company, Curles Neck Sand and Gravel Mine located in Richmond, Virginia.This year’s winner in the coal category, Paramount Coal Company Virginia, LLC, Black Bear #1 Surface Mine, was nominated by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy for their demonstration of a cooperative spirit that has: lead to implementation of innovative practices; improved the environment; assisted in educational research; and provided economic stability to the area. Paramount’s reforestation efforts have been particularly successful and impressive. The stream channel mitigation project and wetlands area are also highlights of the reclamation work. Mining at the site consisted of contour surface on steep slopes and auger mining. The drainage control plan entailed the use of six ponds, a wetlands area and a reconstructed stream channel. There are numerous diversion channels associated with these ponds to create adequate drainage control. The post mining land use for this remining site is a combination of unmanaged forest, managed forest, fish and wildlife habitat and wetlands. The combination of land uses will provide a diversity of habitat for wildlife, provide sufficient groundcover to control erosion, and create high quality commercial resources. Paramount Coal Company Virginia, LLC is committed to reestablishing high quality trees on the Black Bear #1 Surface Mine. In order to accomplish their reforestation goals, a mix of pines, hardwoods and nurse shrubs have been used to reestablish the site.

The operation demonstrates several important technical concepts about reforestation: utilizing the best available material can create a suitable growth medium; elimination of excessive surface compaction has long-term, positive impacts; controlling ground cover that competes with tree growth has beneficial results; and using proper tree planting techniques insures productive yields. It also demonstrates that mining and reforestation is a winning combination because: trees are a good investment since timber offers substantial revenue for landowners and job opportunities for local residents; trees minimize soil erosion; trees provide wildlife habitat and diverse plant species; and planting trees restores our forests, which in turn provides for recreational activities including hunting, hiking and camping.

The 2006 winner in the noncoal category, Vulcan Materials Company, Curles Neck Sand and Gravel Mine, is located in Henrico County in Richmond, Virginia. The site was nominated by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) for the agricultural, industrial, and environmental innovations, along with outstanding reclamation practices currently being utilized. The Curles Neck Sand and Gravel operation utilizes a non-traditional mining method, as well as reclamation practices that exceed regulatory requirements. The historical significance of this property makes the reclamation effort all the more unique. The history of the property dates back to 1636, when it was first settled by an immigrant named Richard Cocke. Although the land changed hands several times over the years, Curles Neck has not lost its historical significance as the home of Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., leader of “Bacon’s Rebellion”. The reclamation efforts have restored the farm fields that were once dilapidated and eroded from centuries of use, and the historic vistas along the James River can once again be admired. Vulcan Construction Materials, LP has also proposed to add historical markers along Route 5 to identify other historical aspects of the property.

In developing the mining/reclamation plan, consideration was given to returning as much of the mined land as possible to productive farmlands. After reclamation, approximately 100 acres were put back into agricultural production, and the remaining 54 acres are now wildlife habitat. Reclamation efforts have also included the utilization of ponds with adjacent fringe wetlands throughout the reclaimed areas to produce wildlife habitats suitable for waterfowl, other wildlife, and native plant species. These ponds support an abundance of wildlife, including migratory bird species, mammals and amphibians at a time when natural habitat for these species is in rapid decline. The ponds improve the water quality of the James River as well by capturing and storing sediment and nutrient laden run-off from the agricultural lands before the water is released into the James River as groundwater. The result is a much-needed, no net gain in sediment and nutrient load in the James River from the reclaimed fields, thereby improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Recently, the company began investigations into the use of selected mine pits as possible wetland mitigation sites. These wetlands could be used as compensation to offset disturbance of wetlands in other areas where mining is anticipated or could be banked and used to compensate for wetland impacts at a later date.

Some interesting innovations in the reclamation process at Curles Neck Sand and Gravel are worthy of note. The company has fabricated a special bucket for their front-end loaders. This bucket is designed with large ripper teeth, used to loosen the regraded overburden prior to application of the topsoil. The company has designed and installed lateral drains under the agricultural lands. These drains are placed at critical locations and used to intercept concentrated flows of surface run-off and carry it to the adjacent ponded areas, where it can be treated before it infiltrates. The use of the drains also helps eliminate erosion; improves the overall drainage in the field, thus providing more useable land for farming; and provides filtering of the water, which results in improved water quality.

Curles Neck Sand and Gravel has also been awarded the Best Reclamation, Non-Quarry Award from the Virginia DMME (2005), the Virginia Aggregates Association Community Impact Award (2004), and the NSSGA Community Relations Certificate of Achievement Award (2004).

Also receiving recognition for honorable mention in the coal category is TXU Mining Company, Oak Hill Mine located in Rusk County, Henderson, Texas.

The awards will be presented at a banquet being held in conjunction with the IMCC’s Annual Meeting, April 30 - May 4, 2006, at the Radisson Hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. For further information about the awards or the IMCC Annual Meeting, contact Beth Botsis, Director of Programs, IMCC at 703/709-8654, fax 703/709-8655, or visit our website: www.imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Selects Recipients of Annual Minerals Education Awards

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently announced the recipients of its sixth annual minerals education awards. Begun in 1999, the minerals education awards are presented each year in two categories: the mining awareness educator category and the public outreach category. The mining awareness educator award is presented to a teacher or school from one of the 22 member states of the IMCC that has achieved excellence in one or more of the following categories: provided educational outreach in an innovative manner that increases the level of understanding in the classroom and/or community about mining and its impacts; promoted environmental stewardship while enhancing the understanding of issues associated with mining and natural resource development; and/or created unique educational materials or curriculum demonstrating the production and/or use of minerals and associated environmental protection. The criteria can be met through classroom and/or out-of-classroom (i.e. field trips, mine tours, etc.) activities. The winner will receive a framed award certificate and a $500 gift certificate for classroom resource materials.

The public outreach award is presented to an industry, environmental, citizen or other group, or to a state government body, that has achieved excellence in one or more of the following categories: provided educational outreach in an innovative manner that increases the level of understanding in the community about mining and its impacts; promoted awareness of environmental stewardship associated with mining through active involvement of citizens; fostered cooperation and partnerships with diverse groups to achieve understanding; enhanced the understanding of issues associated with mining and natural resource development; and/or fostered public education through mine tours, visitor centers, community awareness days, career days, personnel volunteerism in the schools, maintaining adopt-a-school programs or education partnerships, or any other innovative initiative deemed deserving by the awards committee. The winner will be presented with an engraved plaque of recognition.

The minerals education awards will be presented at a banquet held in conjunction with the IMCC Annual Meeting, April 30 - May 3, 2006 in Bismarck, North Dakota.

The winner in the educator awareness category for 2006 is Mary Wilder Stoertz, PhD of Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Dr. Stoertz was nominated for initiating student mine site characterization through offering Ohio University service learning classes. Students who participate are exposed to an environmental classroom where they study mine-subsidence stream capture up close. The students gain a level of understanding from the classroom as well as the community about the effects of mining impacts. In 2001, the Sunday Creek Watershed Group conceived a plan to engage an Ohio University hydrogeology class as “service learning” to study a mine-subsidence stream capture. This project was so successful that it led to others in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The classes consist of 10-20 seniors and graduate students strategically teamed together, with collective training in hydrogeology, geochemistry, biology, geophysics, civil engineering and environmental studies. Faculty expertise is sought as needed and fieldwork is planned with precision. The students work on real-world problems with clients. They present their findings in a report, an oral presentation or in poster form. Dr. Stoertz does applied science research and works in diverse partnerships to solve environmental problems in the southeast Ohio region. The regional environmental issues her research revolves around include coal mine drainage, river channelization, stream restoration, water loss due to mineland subsidence, river flooding, and energy efficiency. Her research encompasses characterization of baseline conditions and processes; hydrologic monitoring; numerical modeling; watershed partnership building; and fusing water resources science and policy. Over two dozen graduate student theses advised by Dr. Stoertz have contributed to the understanding of abandoned mined lands and the challenge that they represent in actual watershed evaluation and the design and construction of remediation projects by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and their partners.

The winner in the public outreach category for 2006 is Jonathan S. (Jon) Rockett, Area Extension Agent, Mined Land Development and Natural Resource Management at the Powell River Project in Wise, Virginia. As an extension agent at the Powell River Project (PRP) for the past 18 years, Jon Rockett has delivered coal mine related environmental education to over 30,000 students. The Powell River Project is a program of Virginia Tech involving landowners, coal companies, mine regulatory agencies, citizens, and others in research and demonstration concerning mined land management and restoration. The PRP conducts research and education programs to enhance restoration of mined lands and to benefit communities and businesses in southwestern Virginia’s coalfield region. Research has focused on developing practical, cost-effective solutions to natural resource problems in central Appalachian coal mining areas. Topics addressed include mine reclamation and environmental protection practices by coal mining operations; use of reclaimed mined lands for forests, agriculture and homes; and water and timber resources. Education programs disseminate the results of completed research, with the goal of putting research results into practice. At the Powell River Project Research and Education Center (PRP-REC), Jon has ably demonstrated that mine reclamation offers an excellent opportunity to illustrate sound natural resource management and to contribute to science education at numerous grade levels.

Early programs in the PRP outreach to local schools were intended simply to expose students to surface mining and reclamation. During the 1990's, Jon and other PRP personnel realized visits could do much more than just “show” mining and reclamation. PRP personnel began working with teachers to integrate site visits into the structured learning activities that reinforce Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). Education programs at the Center are now targeted and tailored to individual SOLs established for specific grade levels. The PRP-REC is also the research site host for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise Summer Governor’s School. Several Virginia Tech classes also incorporate visits to the REC into their educational curricula. In addition, Jon and the PRP-REC have hosted numerous meetings for regulatory personnel involved with mining and reclamation, as well as officials from the Federal Office of Surface Mining and other groups. Jon’s numerous outreach and educational offerings focus on ensuring a better understanding of issues associated with mining and natural resource development. For the past 18 years, he has been a strong voice to objectively portray mining and reclamation. With training and career experience in forestry, science and as a government regulator, Jon’s outreach has dispelled many myths associated with coal mining and reclamation. His work has fostered a greater understanding and appreciation of both our renewable and non-renewable natural resources.

Honorable Mention certificates are also being awarded to two nominees in the Public Outreach Category this year. The Public Outreach honorable mentions go to: New Mexico Mining Association and Minerals Education Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico; and New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, a division of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico.

For further information about the awards or the IMCC Annual Meeting, contact Beth A. Botsis, Director of Programs, IMCC at 703/709-8654, fax 703/709-8655, or visit our web site at www.imcc.isa.us.

Secretary Norton Departs From Interior

After five years of leading the U.S. Department of Interior, Secretary Gale A. Norton recently announced she will leave her Cabinet position at the end of March. Norton is the first woman to serve as the Secretary of the Interior. She is the 48th Interior Secretary and has been in office longer than all but six of her predecessors. She was sworn in on January 31, 2001.

In her five years at the Interior Department, Secretary Norton’s focus has been to:

  • Encourage Cooperative Conservation throughout the United States
  • Implement the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative
  • Negotiate an end to decades-long water conflicts in the West
  • Improve national parks and wildlife refuges
  • Promote responsible energy development
  • Improve services to Indian country
  • Improve science for a changing world
  • Implement the President’s Management Agenda.

In a letter to President Bush, Secretary Norton wrote, “There will never be a perfect time to leave. There is always more work to do. My leaving now gives you the opportunity to appoint a new Secretary to accomplish the goals you set for the rest of your Administration.”

On March 6, President Bush nominated Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne to replace Ms Norton as the next Secretary of Interior.

Jeffrey Jarrett Sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy

Jeffrey Jarrett was sworn in a the Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy on January 3, 2006. The tenth person to hold the post, Mr. Jarrett was confirmed by the Senate on December 17, 2005. “I want to personally welcome Jeffrey to the Department of Energy,” Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. “Today, he takes on the challenging role of promoting and managing some of the most important work that we do at the department. The Office of Fossil Energy is on the cutting edge of great technology that can change the world, and is also intimately involved in initiatives that further enhance our nation’s energy security. During the hurricanes this past summer, we all saw how important it was to have qualified, experienced, and committed public servants available to make critical decisions. His past experience, both in government and corporate leadership positions, will make him a valuable member of our team.”

As Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Mr. Jarrett will serve as the primary policy advisor to the Secretary and the department on issues involving federal coal, oil, and natural gas programs, including extensive research and development efforts in those areas. His responsibilities will include management of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Home Heating Oil Reserve, coordinating and implementing elements of the National Energy Policy Act of 2005, managing the FutureGen initiative, and overseeing the Fossil Energy organization of about 1,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative staff throughout the nation.

Mr. Jarrett, a West Virginia native, has been serving as the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining director since being confirmed in January 2002. He holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management from Pennsylvania’s Geneva College and an A.A.S. degree in Land Stabilization and Reclamation from Belmont Technical College of Ohio.

MSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Mine Safety Rule While Crafting Permanent Measure

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently issued an emergency temporary standard to improve safety during and after underground coal mine accidents and during evacuations at all underground and surface mines. MSHA intends to use the emergency standard as the basis of a permanent rule. A public hearing on the permanent rule is scheduled to take place on May 9 and written comments will be accepted by MSHA until May 30.

The temporary standard was published in the March 9 Federal Register and became effective immediately. It contains provisions covering accident notification, increased evacuation training and the installation and use of new safety equipment. Miners are now required to notify MSHA that an accident has occurred within 15 minutes. The standard also includes provisions regarding the use of self-contained/self-rescuer (SCSR) storage units meant to increase the supply of oxygen to miners. It stipulates that one SCSR unit be available per miner, with other units stored in an easily accessible cache. Training to teach miners how to transfer from one SCSR to another is required and miners must wear SCSR units during evacuation drills.

MSHA also increased evacuation drills, requiring them to be held every 90 days. The drills are intended to help condition miners to escape quickly. Installation and maintenance of added lifelines in the primary and secondary escape routes which will help guide miners along evacuation routes when visibility is poor is also required by the standard.

A copy of the emergency standard and the details regarding the public hearings can be found at: www.msha.gov/REGS/FEDREG/Mine%20Evacuation%20ETS.pdf

IMCC Urges Increase for State Title IV and Title V Grants under SMCRA

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently urged Congress to increase the amounts states receive to support their regulatory programs under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). IMCC also requested that Congress provide additional moneys for states to clean-up abandoned mine lands and reverse the debilitating, downward trend this funding has experienced over the past four years. In a statement submitted to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, IMCC noted that OSM’s budgeted amount for state Title V grants ($58.3 million) does not meet the states’ own estimates for their projected program operating costs ($63 million) and that the gap eliminates the cushion for inflation and uncontrollable costs. “When funding falls below program needs, states may struggle to keep active sites free of offsite impacts, reclaim mine areas, and prevent injuries.” With regard to funding for state Title IV abandoned mine land (AML) program grants, IMCC urged that OSM’s budgeted amount of $127 million be increased to at least $142 million. “These grants are the lifeblood of state AML programs and represent the primary source of funding for the majority of high priority AML work that is undertaken each year,” IMCC stated. IMCC also supported adequate funding for OSM’s training program, the technical innovation and professional services (TIPS) program, and the acid drainage technology initiative (ADTI).

IMCC Briefs National Academy of Sciences Committee on Coal Research Needs

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission’s (IMCC) Executive Director, Greg Conrad, provided a briefing on January 19 to a recently-appointed National Academy of Sciences Committee that has been tasked with reviewing coal resource assessments, technologies and research and development activities in the United States in order to formulate an appropriate, integrated roadmap of future needs. In his comments, Mr. Conrad discussed several key areas for research and development of particular interest to the states in their role as primary regulators of surface coal mining operations. “One of our top research and applied science priorities over the years has been in the area of acid mine drainage,” Conrad stated. Among the critical, high priority technical issues requiring additional research are passive treatment of acid drainage; prediction and treatment of critical chemical constituents impacting water quality, such as manganese and selenium; hydrologic impacts associated with underground mines; and placement of coal combustion wastes at mines. Other key research areas identified by IMCC in its briefing included underground mine mapping; reforestation; blasting; water availability and use; and subsidence. In concluding, Conrad noted that “the states face continual, day-to-day challenges and opportunities with respect to the implementation of their regulatory programs that could be resolved or enhanced through the conduct of this important research.”

Re-opening of Sago Mine Follows Conclusion of Investigation

Following the tragic January explosion at the Sago Mine in Buckhannon, West Virginia where 12 miners perished, an independent on-site investigation was carried out by the International Coal Group (ICG) to determine the cause. The mine was cleared for re-opening by the federal and state regulators and production resumed on March 15, allowing ICG to first brief the families and co-workers of those who died or were injured on March 14. Prior to re-opening repair efforts took place to fix damage caused to the mine infrastructure by the explosion. The investigation concluded that the explosion was caused by an unusually strong lightening strike which was fueled by methane that naturally accumulated in an abandoned area of the mine that had recently been sealed. ICG’s investigation was carried out by a diverse team of mining, electrical and combustion experts. The seals, constructed under a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) approved plan and designed to withstand forces of 20 pounds per square inch (psi), were essentially obliterated by the explosion. The investigators reported that some seals were exposed to forces up to as high as 60 psi. ICG investigators will continue to test and verify its findings and review data. They are working cooperatively with ongoing state and federal investigations.
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