Local mining company earns 2013 Reclamation Award

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

Amerikohl Mining Inc. of Butler received an award from the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance for its surface mine reclamation efforts on three sites in Indiana, Beaver and Clarion counties.

The 2013 Reclamation Award is given annually to member mining companies who exceed federal and state regulations for reclamation, according to the coal alliance.

Six other Pennsylvania mining companies received the award in 2013.

“It recognizes that Amerikohl has shown the deep commitment to land stewardship on a daily basis not only for these specific projects for which they won, but for the long term,” said Josie Gaskey, alliance spokeswoman.

The sites associated with the awards are chosen in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations.

Amerikohl Mining reclaimed 132 acres of surface mine land, some of which had been abandoned before federal reclamation regulations were in place, said John Saugrich, vice president of operations at Amerikohl.

The company paid for the reclamation efforts.

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 was the first federal law to require that mine sites be reclaimed after mining is complete, according to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Saugrich, who is a geologist, said the abandoned mines left old highwalls and spoil piles.

To reclaim the area, the company cut into the hillside where the previous mines existed, removed the coal and backfilled the land.

“It's a one- to two-year process, depending on how large the mine is,” Saugrich said.

The company then works to restore the land to its approximate original contour before reseeding and replanting trees, he said.

“The challenges are ... placing dirt in the right locations, saving enough topsoil to redistribute over the entire mine site and to get good growth of vegetation,” Saugrich said

Although he didn't know the total cost of reclamation, Saugrich estimated reseeding alone is about $1,000 per acre.

Gaskey said in the past five years, coal mine operators spent more than $8.7 million to return mined lands to their original state without using state or federal funds.

“These are not the coal companies of the early 1900s,” Gaskey said.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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