Abandoned Mine Land Program Restores Natural Resources
AUSTIN – The Railroad Commission of Texas announced today the completion of the Brown Abandoned Uranium Mine Reclamation Project in Karnes County. The Brown abandoned mine is one of 32 mine sites in Karnes, Atascosa and Live Oak counties. Uranium was extracted from these surface mines from 1963 until 1975. The Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program, overseen by the Commission’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Division, allows the Commission to reclaim and restore land and water resources and to protect the public from potential adverse effects of pre-law mining practices.
Additionally, the Brown Mine abandoned mine reclamation is featured in a newly launched Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Projects Gallery webpage. The page includes before and after photographs of completed AML projects, including the Mabel New-Superior Abandoned Uranium Mine project, recipient of the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s 2009 Mid-Continent Regional Award for Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation. To view the gallery, click here.
The AML program reclaims priority sites based on public health and safety concerns. To date 450 dangerous underground mine openings have been closed. More than 2,700 acres of abandoned coal and uranium surface mines, located at 46 sites in 16 counties, have been reclaimed to eliminate safety concerns and return the land to productive use.
Reclamation of abandoned surface mines usually consists of earthwork (highwall reduction and spoil re-contouring); burial or treatment of unsuitable spoil (usually naturally occurring acidic or radioactive spoil); installation of erosion and water control structures; and re-vegetation.
In the case of the Brown abandoned uranium mine, the Commission’s AML Program staff mapped and conducted environmental surveys of the abandoned site prior to preparing environmental assessments, reclamation plans, construction bid documents and water discharge permit applications.
Contractors began clearing the mesquite brush present on the Brown site in 2012. Sediment control was installed and water was pumped out of an abandoned pit. Topsoil was salvaged from areas that would be disturbed.
A spoil pile was excavated and used to partially fill and reclaim the abandoned pit. Naturally occurring unsuitable acidic and radioactive spoil material was placed in the pit bottom as compacted fill and capped with almost 1.3 million cubic yards of clean, non-acidic, non-radioactive spoil that was compacted to achieve the final design contours. Burial and capping radioactive spoil materials with clean material in the abandoned pit bottom keeps radiation levels on the reclaimed surface within the limits for continuous occupation.
The stockpiled topsoil was spread over the reclaimed pit and water control channels were constructed. The completed spoil and pit was then covered with topsoil. Following the completion of major earthwork reclamation, the final step in the process was re-vegetation of the graded and topsoiled areas.
Total completed cost for reclamation of the Brown abandoned mine was $4,166,535 and was funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) through a production fee levied on active coal mining operations in the United States.
About the Railroad Commission
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov.