ND agency seeks $3.9M to reclaim coal minesThe state Public Service Commission agreed Wednesday to seek $3.9 million in federal aid to continue reclamation work on two abandoned coal mines in western North Dakota.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The state Public Service Commission agreed Wednesday to seek $3.9 million in federal aid to continue reclamation work on two abandoned coal mines in western North Dakota.
The mines south of Columbus in Burke County and north of Beulah in Mercer County went out of business decades ago, before state and federal laws required them to be reclaimed for farming and ranching use.
Under the Burke County project, new vegetation would be planted on about 350 acres of mined land and about 1.3 miles of “high walls,” created when the mine's open pits were dug, would be leveled.
The walls are up to 70 feet high and could be dangerous to passersby and livestock, Commissioner Kevin Cramer said.
“It's a previous open-pit mine that hasn't been filled in,” Cramer said. “Basically it's just a large hole that results in a very steep wall.”
Underground caverns in the Mercer County mine are being filled with grout to guard against collapsing soil and sinkholes.
Both projects began years ago and are being completed in phases as money becomes available. The commission periodically applies for federal reclamation aid, which is financed by taxes on coal mining. The lignite mines in western North Dakota produce about 30 million tons of coal annually, most of which is used to fuel nearby electric power stations.
Cramer said the Mercer and Burke County projects would use up most of the requested $3.9 million allotment. The Burke County work will cost about $2 million, and the Mercer County work will need about $650,000 to complete, he said.
The remainder of the money will be spread among a number of smaller reclamation projects.
Jim Deutsch, the commission's reclamation director, said the agency has a list of about 150 former sites of underground and strip coal mines that need reclamation work to eliminate dangers. Other large sites are near Glen Ullin, Scranton and Wilton in western North Dakota, he said.