AML Program Information
Abandoned Mine Reclamation in Pennsylvania
The Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (BAMR) administers and oversees the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program in Pennsylvania. The bureau is responsible for resolving abandoned mine land (AML) problems such as mine fires, mine subsidence, dangerous highwalls, open shafts and portals, mining impacted water supplies and other hazards which have resulted from past coal mining practices in accordance with requirements established by the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) under authority of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) (PL 95-87, as amended).
SMCRA defines lands and waters that are eligible for reclamation as:
Lands and waters which were mined for coal or which were affected by such mining, wastebanks, coal processing, or other coal mining processes and abandoned or left in an inadequate reclamation status prior to Aug. 3, 1977, and for which there is no continuing reclamation responsibility under state or federal laws.
SMCRA defines three priorities and establishes that expenditures of moneys from the fund shall reflect the following priorities in the order stated:
- Priority 1 (P1) - the protection of public health, safety and property from extreme danger of adverse effects of coal mining practices;
- Priority 2 (P2) - the protection of public health and safety from adverse effects of coal mining practices; and,
- Priority 3 (P3) - the restoration of land and water resources and the environment previously degraded by adverse effects of coal mining practices including measures for the conservation and development of soil, water (excluding channelization), woodland, fish and wildlife, recreation resources and agricultural productivity.
As required by SMCRA, Pennsylvania has documented an inventory of AML sites with Priority 1 and Priority 2 health and safety hazards. The estimated cost to reclaim these high priority sites exceeds $1 billion. Many additional sites remain undocumented and future problems, such as mine subsidence, will continue to occur due to Pennsylvania's AML legacy. BAMR selects P1 and P2 sites for reclamation from those reported to BAMR by the public, or by government agencies, and from sites in the AML inventory that have a significant impact on the public.
AML funding is provided to Pennsylvania through grants from the federal OSM. SMCRA requires that active coal operators pay an AML fee on each ton of coal mined. OSM collects the fee and distributes it through annual grants to the AML states and tribes according to a distribution formula established in the law. Collection of the AML fee is currently authorized by SMCRA through federal fiscal year 2021.