Va. receives $22.7M to reclaim abandoned mine lands
Federal funding aims to attract projects, job opportunities in SWVA
The Virginia Department of Energy will receive $22.7 million in federal funding toward redeveloping abandoned mine lands across the commonwealth, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday.
The funding is aimed at redeveloping the sites so that they can be used to attract new development and job opportunities to the region. Handled through Virginia’s Abandoned Mine Lands program, funded projects involve mitigating safety hazards and environmental issues on the sites that resulted from coal mining prior to the implementation of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
In March, Virginia Energy sought companies with three or more years of mining and reclamation experience to bid on remediation work at abandoned mine sites. Virginia has thousands of such sites awaiting reclamation, according to Youngkin’s office, and previous funding limited the number of projects that could be addressed in a grant year. The program has been getting about $4 million annually, creating more than 1,000 jobs since 2017, according to the state.
“We are excited to get to work and assist in getting others back to work with this announcement of federal funds,” Youngkin said. “Creating jobs in coal-impacted communities is a priority and through the reclamation and repurposing of these mined lands, we hope to see … additional economic activity for properties that can become suitable for development.”
Southwest Virginia has benefited from the federal Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program, which has offered multiple rounds of funding to Virginia Energy, formerly known as the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
“Southwest Virginia has a ready workforce to complete the numerous infrastructure projects in Virginia,” Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick said in a statement. “Our agency prides itself on economic development in this region and we will aid in continued job increases over the next 15 years with this specific funding.”
Virginia offered funding for these projects previously in 2021.
“There are thousands of features posing safety and environmental harm due to historic mining in Southwest Virginia and other areas of the state where coal was once extracted,” Virginia Energy Director John Warren said in a statement. “These funds will allow us to reclaim and repurpose just over 80% of the current inventory Virginia Energy has gathered since our AML program began in 1981.”
“Our AML team finally gets to complete projects and tasks that have been on our wish list for years,” Virginia Energy Deputy Director Will Clear said in a statement. “The impact this work will have on our region will be so significant for a growing economy and for community enhancement.”