AML Pilot Program

Courtesy Friends of Blackwater/WVDEP

West Virginia officials Thursday announced the names of the recipients they are recommending for millions of dollars in federal funding to help clean up abandoned coal mines.

The West Virginia Department of Environment Protection is recommending 12 projects in the Mountain State receive $27 million in Abandoned Mine Land Pilot program funding. 

"They are great projects for West Virginia that will spur economic development," said Gov. Jim Justice, speaking at a virtual press conference Thursday. 

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Devin Mefford is sitting in the squat metal buggy of a modified mantrip, the train-like shuttle coal miners use to travel underground. Mefford is dressed for work, in a hardhat and a navy shirt and pants with lime green reflective stripes.

It’s a uniform his father and grandfather — both Kentucky coal miners — would be familiar with.

Mefford does go into a mine every day, but not for the coal. He’s the tour guide at Portal 31, a train ride through a once-operational coal mine in Harlan County.

A patch of miscanthus towers above other grasses on the former mine site
Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

A new report by a group of regional advocacy organizations argues reclaiming abandoned mine lands could be a key factor in Appalachia’s transition from coal.

In its second annual report, released Thursday, the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition, highlighted 19 reclamation projects in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. They run the gamut from installing solar on abandoned mine lands to boosting outdoor recreation opportunities like biking and hiking trails. 

A surface mine in Letcher County, Kentucky. The reclaimed part of the mine is seeded with grass.
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

From solar farms in Virginia to a green energy subdivision in Kentucky, a new report by a group of regional advocacy organizations highlights 20 ready-made projects across the Ohio Valley that could give abandoned mining operations that were never cleaned up a second life, and create new economic opportunity across the region.