IOWA MINES: Reclaiming Old Coal Mines

Iowa contractors are hoping to turn Marion County eye sores into something useful.

“This is the remnants of surface coal mining that took place in Marion County anywhere from about the 1940′s to 1977 or so..we’re standing on the top of the spoil pile about 65-70 feet tall off of the ground elevation,” Todd Coffelt with the Iowa Mines and Minerals Bureau explains. .

Over 50-years ago, workers mined coal at more than 300 locations across the state.

Now, the mines are all closed. So contractors are working to restore the land where surface mines once were.

Funds for the projects are generated from taxes on the current coal industry. The costs is around $10,000 an acre, and so far around 40% of the mines have be reclaimed.

Once the work is done, the land is good for pasture, but can’t grow crops.

There are also underground mines, some even right here under the metro area.

“The southeast part of the city towards the airport there’s been coal mining there, and we have the mine maps for that. We know where the entrances should have been. The fairgrounds have underground mining in that area. If you work up toward Ankeny, we have underground mining maps for that area too,” Coffelt says.

There are also mines under Urbandale, Clive and Waukee.

The Bureau of Mines and Minerals is charged of keeping track of all those old mines, should there ever be an unexplained sink hole.

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