Abandoned Mine Land Program
In 1979-1980 the Oklahoma Conservation Commission made an inventory of all abandoned coal mine lands in the state. Sites were evaluated based on the danger to public health and safety. It is the Conservation Commission's responsibility, in accordance with the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, to reclaim the most dangerous sites first.
Sites for future reclamation are selected by the AML staff from the inventory, based on public concerns, conservation district recommendations, and reclamation criteria. To provide more public input, four regional meetings are held annually in conjunction with local conservation district board meetings. These meetings allow the public to present any AML sites they would like to be reclaimed. Public notices announcing the public hearings are published in the 16 counties with abandoned coal mine problem areas. If anyone is unable to attend a meeting, sites may be submitted directly to the AML Program. If a new site is identified by the public, conservation districts, or the AML staff, it is added to the inventory.
After the list of potential sites has been compiled, the AML staff visits each site and ranks the proposed projects using a Project Selection Matrix. Next a list of potential projects is submitted to the State Reclamation Committee, consisting of appropriate state/federal agencies and organizations, for comments and suggestions.
When a potential project is approved by the committee, a representative of the Conservation Commission or the local conservation district meets with the landowners. The Commission obtains a written right-of-entry to enter the property to conduct the necessary engineering. When the conceptual design has been completed, the landowner is given an opportunity to review the design. Once the landowner and the Commission agree on the design, the landowner then signs a right-of-entry to permit the reclamation work. The project reclamation plan, specifications, and provisions are sent to the Oklahoma Department of Central Services (DCS) for bid solicitation. A prebid conference for contractors is held at the site. Once the bids are opened and the low bidder is accepted, a construction contract is issued by DCS. The Commission provides an inspector to oversee construction activities.
For land to be eligible for reclamation, the following conditions must be met:
The land must have been mined before August 3, 1977, or if after August 3, 1977, there is no continuing responsibility for reclamation by the coal operator and little or no bond money is available from the state or federal government to accomplish the reclamation.
The land was left either unreclaimed or inadequately reclaimed.
The land is in a condition which endangers the health or safety of the public, or the quality of the environment, or prevents or damages the beneficial use of the land or water resources.
If a landowner obtained title to a mine property prior to May 3, 1977, and did not benefit financially from the coal mining, the Commission will pay 100 percent of the cost of reclamation. Landowners who obtained a mine property after May 3, 1977, may have to share in the cost of reclamation. However, if the reclamation work primarily benefits the health or safety of the public, the Commission can waive this requirement.
The Commission does not restrict the landowner's use of the reclaimed site after construction is completed with one exception. Livestock grazing is prohibited on the site for a minimum of two years following planting of permanent vegetation. This will ensure that an adequate vegetative cover is established. When feasible, the Commission will plant the landowner's choice of vegetation on the site. However, the final decision will be based on soil tests and soil conditions existing after construction activities have been completed.