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Wyoming to receive millions of federal dollars for mine reclamation 

Reclaimed land that was once mined for coal in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. When coal companies declare bankruptcy, funding for land reclamation becomes a question
Leigh Paterson
/
Inside Energy
Reclaimed land that was once mined for coal in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. When coal companies declare bankruptcy, funding for land reclamation becomes a question

Wyoming is one of 22 states to receive federal money to restore abandoned mine sites, of which there are likely hundreds in the state.

Historically, Wyoming is a mining state, including mining for energy resources like coal and uranium, and 25 years ago, companies did not have to clean up their operation after completing a project.

In 1977, Congress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), which requires companies to restore the land that they mined.

Keith Guille, the public information supervisor with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said it is hard to know the exact number of abandoned mine sites in the state.

“You wish you had historical documents to pinpoint every abandoned line in the state,” Guille said. “But as you can imagine, as we clean one up, sometimes we find a few others that we just didn't know about.”

Wyoming will receive more than $9 million in federal funding to help continue the reclamation work. The funding is part of President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

Guille said the money will likely go toward stabilizing old, underground mines, to make sure the ground does not collapse and create sinkholes in the future.

“We will grout that area where we pump concrete into those seams, to stabilize the area, make sure that no holes open up in the future,” he said.

Guille added that there is a lot of reclamation work happening in communities like Hanna and Rock Springs, which are above old, unstable mining sites.

The abandoned mine land funding is part of a larger $11.3 billion that will be dispersed to 22 states over the next 15 years.

This funding is in addition to the regular Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund monies that mining states receive, as part of the 1977 SMCRA legislation. Mining companies have to pay into the fund of up to 28 cents per ton of coal produced, depending on how the coal was mined.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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