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ALABAMA ABANDONED MINE LAND RECLAMATION PROGRAM WINS NATIONAL AWARD

September 01, 2020

Press Releases

For Immediate Release: September 1, 2020

ALABAMA ABANDONED MINE LAND RECLAMATION PROGRAM WINS NATIONAL AWARD

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) Secretary Fitzgerald Washington congratulates the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program for winning a national award for the second year in a row. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), the federal agency that oversees the regulation of coal mining and restoration of abandoned mine lands, awarded Alabama the 2020 Small Project Award for its work on the Ruffner Mountain Portals Project.

The AML Reclamation Program resolves issues related to mine fires, mine subsidence, dangerous highwalls, open shafts and portals, mining-impacted water supplies, and other hazards which have resulted from past coal mining (pre-1977) practices. The AML program is part of the Inspections Division of ADOL.

The Ruffner Mountain Portals project reclaimed two open mine portals using bat gate closures as both mines were identified as a habitat for several species of bats. The portals are located within Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham, one of the largest urban nature preserves in the country. These portals were reclaimed utilizing bat gate closures fabricates on-site to prevent human access to the underground mine works yet allow the bat colony complete access. This project provided a unique opportunity for public outreach and education on the importance of bats in the ecosystem and their use of abandoned mines as habitat.

Ruffner Mountain was mined for iron ore from the late 19th century through the 1950s.

“I am extremely proud of our AML staff for working with the experts at Ruffner Mountain to come up with a solution to protect the public from the hazards of the abandoned mine while also protecting the large bat colony,” said Secretary Washington. “This award reflects the high standards and commitment to safety that all of our AML staff possess. It’s well deserved.”

OSMRE Principal Deputy Director Lanny Erdos states, “The Ruffner project is an example of excellence in mine reclamation that emphasizes the elimination of the health, safety, and environmental problems which commonly plague abandoned mine lands.”

The award is normally presented at the annual National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs Conference but will now be virtually presented later this month.