|Mountaintop Removal Surface Mining|
Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a special form of area mining where complete coal seams are recovered between a given ridge or mountaintop down to a “basal coal seam” or lowest elevation of coal extraction. The mining sequence for MTR is basically the same as area mining, although the operational areas are generally larger and reclamation leaves a flat or gently rolling terrain versus the AOC restoration of area mining.
In the press and as used by anti-mining groups the term “mountaintop removal mining” is used more broadly than its SMCRA statutory definition to include all forms of surface mining in Appalachia and West Virginia. It is very important to note that for a mining site to be considered a MTR mining operation it MUST fit the narrow SMCRA definition of a surface mining operation that removes all of the coal seams in a given ridge and DOES NOT restore the mining area to AOC.
As noted above, MTR mining operations do not restore AOC as do contour and area mines. Reclaimed MTR mines generally have lower slopes and elevation than the original topography. The ability to obtain a variance from AOC restoration (and change an area mine to a MTR mine) is dependent on the intended post-mining land use (PMLU) of the former mining area. The PMLUs that will qualify a site for a variance from AOC restoration are enumerated in SMCRA and the corresponding state programs (more detail on these PMLUs is provided in the section on mining regulation). Generally, the approval able PMLUs for MTR mines are limited to commercial, industrial, residential or agricultural uses. In the steeply-sloped terrain of Appalachia and West Virginia, the potential for PMLU development has emerged as a solution to chronic economic problem in the region- the lack of land, outside of flooding zones with needed infrastructure that is suitable for development (see Figure 3). Figures A-17 through A-23 are photographs of PMLUs developed on former MTR mining sites.
Former MTR Mine with Golf Course as Approved Post Mining Land Use
Another View Former MTR Mine with Golf Course as Approved Post Mining Land Use
Former MTR Mine with Development as an Airstrip
Former MTR Mine with Light Industrial PMLU (Wood Products Plant)
Former MTR Mine with Residential Development
Hospital and School Construction on Former MTR Mine Site
Figure A-23Retail Center Developed on Former MTR Mining Operation