April 10, 2017 - The four day International Mining and Reclamation Conference at The Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, West Virginia has brought together over 400 experts in mining and reclamation from three prominent organizations, including the American Society of Mining and Reclamation, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and the West Virginia Mine Drainage Task Force.
This is first time all three groups are able to meet together to discuss their knowledge and findings.
"Mining operations are shutting down and as a result of that they have to close them up and by closing that means that all of the reclamation has to happen. They need to make sure the water quality is good that is coming off of these mines and that the vegetation is right," said Jeff Skousen, WVU conference chair.
One of their main missions is to reclaim lands that have been impacted by surface mining.
"Mining is different everywhere around the world. Soil conditions vary, water conditions vary, but they all have a central theme of trying to restore the land back to its highest and best use in protecting water quality," said Ben Faulkner, civil and environmental consultant.
Attendees participated in different sessions throughout the day, some of those focusing on the future of reclamation and the changing coal sector.
"I come from a coal mining family. I grew up with the history in my family and it has been interesting to see how things have changed over the last several years. It's disheartening in many ways, but I think groups like ours hopefully help to put back some of that hope into some of those environmental problems and perhaps make a difference," said Bob Narin, Professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Another hot topic discussed was reforestation and finding new techniques to protect land on reclaimed mines.
"There are a number of challenges, but we are making good progress. The coal industry is doing a wonderful job, the regulators are doing a great job, the academics are helping us with research and we have been very successful. A lot of these mine sites now are going back to forest land," said Scott Eggerud, Appalachian Regional Restoration Initiative.
Attendees will also be taking trips to local surface mines, the Longview Power Plant, and the Flight 93 Memorial Site.