As most residents of West Virginia are aware, coal mining is not only a major contributor to West Virginia's economy, it is also one of the primary sources of electricity in the United States.
Coal mining can also result in a number of environmental impacts. Coal mining includes underground mining and surface mining activities. Mountain-top removal is a type of surface coal mining that involves blasting apart and removing overlying rock material to expose coal seams below that run horizontally through the mountains. All forms of coal mining can generate large volumes of unwanted rock or excess spoil, which is then placed in nearby valleys, burying streams and wildlife. Mining fills also may increase acidity, salts, metals, and conductivity levels in downstream waters, adversely affecting populations of fish, salamanders, aquatic macro-invertebrates, insects and the species that feed on them. Coal mining also involves large-scale loss and fragmentation of West Virginia's forested habitats, potentially impacting a number of species, particularly forest-breeding migratory birds and some salamanders. Learn about coal impacts on wildlife.
Our office coordinates closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other organizations to find methods to avoid or reduce coal mining impacts to natural resources and to find methods to restore streams, wetlands and forested areas to their previous condition.
The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative is a multi-partner cooperative effort with the goals of planting hardwood trees on reclaimed coal mined lands in Appalachia and increasing the survival rates and growth rates of planted trees. In addition, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, and U.S. Forest Service, actively treat acid mine drainage in West Virginia to restore water quality in degraded stream systems.