November 15, 2018 - A new report shows that with a little innovative thinking, there can be life after coal by re-purposing abandoned coal mine sites in Appalachia.
It's all designed to help showcase how areas can build a new economy in the decline of the coal industry.
The report by Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition identifies 20 projects in the region that, if funded, could bring new life to those communities.
One idea for Dickenson County, Virginia includes building an outdoor adventure resort on a reclaimed high wall to draw tourists.
Another idea is building a solar farm in southwest Virginia.
Jacob Hannah, conservation coordinator of the group Coalfield Development in West Virginia, says the coalition's plan is to inspire local leaders and entrepreneurs to get people back to work.
"Maybe if we start working together and put out the progress that we have been observing and creating, then maybe it will inspire other people to do the same as well and we can start moving toward what can be created as a best practice for answering the questions of abandoned mine sites," he states.
Some of the projects in the report received funding from Congress through the Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program, which appropriated $105 million in 2017 and $115 million in 2018.
According to the coalition, 166 Appalachian counties within the project areas represent a population of more than 5.7 million people, nearly 40 percent of whom live in counties categorized by the Appalachian Regional Commission as at-risk or distressed based on unemployment, income and poverty factors.
Hannah says part of the goal is to help develop local communities across the region into places where young people will stay and work.
"We're also looking into solar module installation, possibly different training grounds for different students who would want to come in and learn the trade of solar installation and solar panel installation," he states.
The coalition is calling on Congress to support more projects through The RECLAIM Act, which is pending in Congress and would accelerate the distribution of $1 billion of existing funds over five years to revitalize coal communities.