have additional requirements. The major decommissioning and closure activities are (1) sealing of all access to underground mine areas, (2) removal of all surface facilities, and (3) reclamation of surface mine areas (generally carried out concurrently with mining operations) and the surface areas of underground mines. Underground and surface coal mines present different challenges for decommissioning and closure. The critical factors in underground mining are the effects of subsidence and hydrology, both of which require continued monitoring and control. For surface mines, the critical factors relate to drainage and treatment of water and to erosion and sedimentation of the slopes, the waste and spoil banks, and the final pit. Continued use of the surface mine infrastructure (e.g., roads, buildings, utilities) depends to a large extent on the post-mining requirements described in the mining plan. A mining plan that is well integrated with a community master plan can result in optimum post-mining use of this infrastructure.

Abandoned Mined Lands. A range of environmental issues (e.g., subsidence, fires, acid mine drainage, waste disposal sites, derelict lands) associated with abandoned mined land (AML) continues to cause major concerns and threats to the health, safety, and general welfare of communities. This problem is particularly acute in the older coal mining districts of the eastern United States, specifically in the Appalachian hill country. Although mine closure today is a rigorously regulated process requiring detailed technical and financial analysis during the planning and operation stages for a mine—and ensuring financial and legal responsibility for post-mining closure—the nation continues to grapple with the effects of past mining practices. Additional research is required to develop and demonstrate more effective and sustainable solutions to the problems of acid mine drainage, mine fires, and the utilization of waste piles from AML sites.


Coal mining research and development (R&D) are carried out by a range of organizations and entities—federal government agencies, state government agencies, equipment manufacturers, academic institutions, and industry. In general, the scope of and motivation for research are determined by the relevance and potential impact of the problems that need to be dealt with by these various stakeholders. Industry participants in mining research include individual companies and mining company associations.

Research Programs in Federal Agencies

While the federal government continues to have extensive involvement in the regulation of the coal mining industry, its support for mining research has decreased substantially over the past 10 years. At present, federal research is focused primarily on health and safety. Some research is being done on environmental issues, but support for research aimed at advanced mining technologies

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