Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 provides for the restoration of mine lands, abandoned or left inadequately restored before August 3, 1977. Production fees of 35 cents per ton of surface-mined coal, 15 cents per ton of coal mined underground, and 10 cents per ton of lignite have been collected from coal producers at all active coal mining operations (those numbers are 28, 12 and 8 respectively as of 2006). The fees deposited into the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund are used to pay the reclamation costs of AML projects. The fund consists of fees, contributions, late payment interest, penalties, administrative charges, and interest earned on investment of the fund’s principal. From January 30, 1978, when the first fees were paid, through June 30, 2007, the fund had collected $7,013,239,421 and fund appropriations totaled $5,493,809,291.

In 2006, Pennsylvania was almost left out on a rare opportunity to both restore the environment and create needed jobs in the state’s coal mining counties, as feel collection for the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 was “sun-setting.”

“It will take action by Congress and the President to change that,” said members of a statewide alliance of environmental groups, watershed associations, conservancies, and conservation districts that have joined a nationwide campaign to speed up efforts to reclaim old abandoned mine land and thousands of miles of streams impacted by abandoned mine drainage, more commonly known as AMD.

“…and it did.” In December 2006, as one of the 109th Congress’ final acts before adjourning, the House and Senate passed legislation extending and revamping a federal law that mandates a reclamation fee on each ton of coal produced in the country. The fee collection will sunset again in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that AML Reclamation will be complete.  Here are some interesting infographics that were made as we are 2/3 or the way through the 15 year reauthorization.  They make a good case to show that reauthorization will be needed in 2020.

AML_Program_Visualization_2016_Page_1 AML_Program_Visualization_2016_Page_2 AML_Program_Visualization_2016_Page_3


Reclamation efforts in the coalfields across the country depend on this coal fee. This fee is justified because for three centuries coal companies paid nothing back to the communities and lands that they scarred. Mining operations only last for so many years, but the hazardous effect it has on the land and water continue for centuries afterwards, causing health and safety issues for those who live near former mines. In 2016, 5.5 Million Americans still live less than a mile from a dangerous abandoned mine site. By 2022, Pennsylvania will expect to see approximately $1.4 billion in funding to help reclaim an estimated $15 billion problem.

How can you help?  Urge your U.S. Congressional Representative to support the reauthorization of the AML Trust Fund for continued reclamation of hazardous abandoned mine lands throughout the nation!  Copy the previous sentence then go to our Write Your Legislator page.

AML Trust Fund Resources

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