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Expert Explains Options for Abandoned Coal Mines in Kentucky



November 5, 2023 - The number of coal mines in Kentucky is on the decline.

The State Division of Mine Safety data shows that in 2008 there were 625 licensed mines, including the one in Martin County. Right now, there are just 129 in the state.

Steve Gardner is a consulting engineer, and he has worked around the mining and coal industry since 1975.

He says over the years, he’s seen the industry change in more ways than one.

“If you do a survey through the region, you’ll see that’s where all the new schools and industrial developments and housing developments , recreation, golf courses and the new area of adventure tourism.” Gardner said, “That’s something I’ve been working on in recent years, is how we can use this area.”

In Eastern Kentucky, Gardner says they often see challenges with the terrain but reclaiming these mines for different purposes can be beneficial for their community.

He says mining has a reputation of being unsafe, but they’ve learned from the past and made it a safer industry.

“Kentucky received 74 million dollars in infrastructure money to put toward reclaiming old mine sites. Those would be the sites that were mined prior to the passage of SMCRA in 1977.” Gardner said.

That federal law regulates the environmental effects of coal mining, across the US.

Gardner says people should realize that the country was built on the backs of coal miners, and there can be a purpose for the old land.

Although none of their projects have come to fruition yet, he says they are still being planned and progressing.

“One new large project that is supposed to open next year is on an 8,000 acre reclaimed mountaintop in Bell County, for the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation.” Gardner said.

He says these steps forward are what make these projects successful.