Montana receives $7.6 million to reclaim coal mines

HELENA – The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Monday more than $7 million in funding for Montana to help clean up and repurpose abandoned coal mines.

Autumn Coleman, Abandoned Mine Lands Program Manager for The Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said the state is home to more than 3,000 abandoned coal mines in additional to another 3,000 abandoned hard rock mines.

The $7.6 million will help stabilize collapsed coal mines and clean up acid drainage.

“When groundwater enters mines it turns into acid and runs into the surface,” Coleman said.

The money is provided each year to DEQ through the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Grant which places a per-ton fee on coal produced in the state.

Coleman said the grants will allow for continued work on those mines as well as new projects at no cost to the landowners where the mines are located.

“This money will allow Montana to not only continue its work on the Belt Water Treatment Plant… but other acid mine drainage projects in the Cascade County area as well as reclaiming subsidence features across Eastern Montana and continuing our work in Red Lodge with the Red Lodge Coal Field there.”

The Department of Interior Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) administers the AML grants. The AML program fee is set to expire in 2021 and DEQ said if that happens, there won’t be any money to address those mines unless congress reauthorizes the program.