What is the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program?
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) created two programs: one for regulating active coal mines (federal law, until that point, did not mandate the reclamation of mine land) and a second for reclaiming previously abandoned mine lands.
The federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program is aimed at addressing the aftermath of coal mining that occurred prior to the legislation’s passage.
The Alabama Department of Labor administers the federal AML program in the Yellowhammer State.
The Alabama Department of Labor’s AML program receives annual grants from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) which are funded by a federal severance tax on coal mined nationwide.
The program makes pre-1977 abandoned mine areas safer for people, communities, and the environment.
In addition to reclaiming thousands of acres of land and increasing safety for thousands of Alabama residents, the state’s AML program has been recognized for its positive economic impacts. The Alabama Department of Labor has reported that for every federal dollar spent for construction, $1.59 in the form of labor income, state and local tax revenue, and construction value improvements were returned to the economy.
What is the AML program’s role in Heritage Landing?
The Alabama Department of Labor recommended the Heritage Landing development project for $3 million in funding through OSMRE’s Abandoned Mine Land Revitalization Program (AMLER) grant program. This funding is intended to reclaim a dangerous high wall and associated mining features on a 50-acre site that could provide the potential for future economic development.
Phase 1 of the project includes the reclamation of Priority 1 abandoned mine land. This is the highest priority designated by the federal government.
How else has the AMLER program been utilized in Alabama?
The Alabama Department of Labor has previously awarded AMLER funds to a diverse range of private and public sector partners seeking innovative, strategic uses of abandoned mine land that will positively impact area residents and visitors for years to come.
Past examples include the following:
- The Southern Museum of Flight’s relocation to the Grand River Technology Park situated near Barber Motorsports and The Bass Pro Shop near Leeds. This project, which brought together U.S. Steel, the cities of Birmingham and Leeds, the Southern Museum of Flight and Jefferson County, is expected to have an economic impact of $85 million.
- Recreational sports fields and community park development in Helena.
- The expansion of the Vestavia Hills Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex including a new dog park.
- The reclamation of a dangerous highwall and recreational improvements on public lands located in the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge.
- Broadband expansion and public Wi-Fi for the community of Jasper.
- A marina expansion in Tuscaloosa County.
- A historic theater restoration in the legacy mining community of West Blocton.
What is the history of the Heritage Landing site?
While Drummond Company has a proud and storied history mining in Walker County, it never mined the specific land covered by the Heritage Landing project. The site was mined pre-1977 by a company no longer in existence.
The property location is within the heart of historic Alabama coal mining communities that were established and flourished during the 20th century mining boom. Now, most have ceased operations. Some of these mines closed within the recent past, including in the following locations: Dora, West Jefferson, Sumiton, Cordova, Quinton, Quintown, Twilley Town, Flat Creek, Burnwell, Pumpkin Center, Barney, Redstar, Yerkwood, Wegra, Doliska, Union Chapel, Segco, Bagley Bend, Chetopa, Horse Creek, Short Creek, Pratt, Flat Top, Gorgas, Gilmore, Sayre, Knob, Arkadelphia, Maxine, Empire, Sipsey, and Creel.
What does the future hold for Heritage Landing?
There have already been significant discussions with interested developers and potential tenants. Anyone interested is encouraged to reach out to the Walker County Development Authority.