On April 4, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced it would receive approximately $4.6 million annually, for the next 15 years, as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to address abandoned mine lands. The latest round of funding is in addition to annual grant funding of approximately $3.3 million that it receives already from coal production fees.
The DEQ said the funding will allow it to increase the number of projects developed to protect public safety and mitigate the environmental impacts of abandoned mines.
“It’s critically important that we clean up these abandoned mine sites to protect public safety and our water quality,” said Senator Jon Tester.
“I’m glad to see the Abandoned Mine Lands program will continue to improve water, soil and air quality for all Montanans,” added Sen. Steve Daines.
To date, the state DEQ has extinguished 17 coal mine fires, closed 1,631 hazardous mine openings, reclaimed 31 miles of streams and 157 acres of land impacted by mine waste, and has spent $17.5 million reclaiming contaminated surface water.
Once completed, reclaimed AML sites can be returned to productive uses such as agriculture, grazing and recreation.
DEQ’s Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program was established in 1980 to address eligible coal mine sites that were abandoned prior to the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).