Surface Mining


One of the state's most abundant energy resources is a form of soft coal called lignite. Many lignite deposits lie close to the surface, easily within reach of modern mining technology. A typical surface mining operation consists of a dragline excavators, trucks and spoil piles. The dragline excavator is used to remove rock or soil above coal. Some of these draglines are so large, they must be assembled on-site and have a direct connection to a high-voltage energy source. Mining trucks transport materials around the site and to refining facilities.  Rock and soil is collected in what is known as a spoil pile, and can later be used in the reclamation process.

The Division's Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program implements Title IV of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). It is the intent of the AML program to reclaim and restore land and water resources and to protect the public from the adverse effects of pre-law (August 3, 1977) mining practices. This program is fully funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) through a production tax levied on active coal mining operations in Texas. 


The Texas AML Program has certified completion of all known Priority 1 and 2 coal AML problems. The Program is now focusing its efforts on abandoned surface uranium mines in Karnes and Live Oak counties, and on abandoned underground hard rock mines in Brewster, Presidio and El Paso counties. 


Reclamation of abandoned surface mines usually consists of the following: earthwork (highwall reduction and spoil recontouring) burial or treatment of unsuitable spoil (usually acidic or naturally occurring radioactive spoil) and installation of erosion and water control structures and revegetation. Dangerous abandoned underground mine openings are usually closed by one of the following methods: backfilling, capping (concrete or metal grating) or metal gating. 

As of February 2016, the Texas Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program has reclaimed 2,724 acres of abandoned surface mines and closed 413 dangerous abandoned underground mine openings at a construction cost of approximately $46M. 

Last Updated: 6/23/2016 10:20:03 AM