Feature Story

Land Reclamation Program Oversees Active Mining in Missouri

Mineral use in our modern world is more diverse than you might think. The Land Reclamation Program regulates the mining operations used to obtain them.
Main Photo
Photo of a mine site in Callaway County after it has been reclaimed.
Abandoned coal mine lands are plagued by safety and health hazards as well as diminished economic opportunities. This after photo of a mine site in Callaway County demonstrates how properly reclaimed mine sites can be used for agriculture, wildlife and water bodies.
Image Source
MoDNR File Photo
Opening Sentence
The diverse uses of minerals in our modern world are more numerous than one may realize. Minerals are employed in the creation of materials used to construct roads and buildings, as well as to develop pharmaceutical products.

They also are used to manufacture high-tech electronics, national defense and security systems and more. Minerals play a critical role in our daily lives, and they contribute greatly to Missouri’s economy. The U.S. Geological Survey’s 2019 report on mineral commodities identified Missouri as the ninth largest producer of nonfuel minerals in the United States for 2018 with a commodity value of $2.93 billion. These nonfuel minerals are Portland cement, lead, lime, crushed stone and industrial sand and gravel.

Mining activity in Missouri began as early as the 1740s for lead, iron,  limestone, sand and gravel. Coal mining in Missouri began in the 1840s. With no legislation or regulation of these operations, as many as 67,000 acres were left unreclaimed by coal-mining operations. An estimated 40,000 acres were abandoned after the mining of other commodities. Missouri was left with a legacy of acid-mine drainage, dangerous highwalls, toxic mine spoils, dangerous mine shaft openings, barren soils, soil erosion and stream sedimentation.

Missouri enacted legislation in 1971 to offset the effects of mining. In 1974, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Land Reclamation Program was established to regulate mining operations. Program staff work to ensure mineral resources are available for economic development and the mining industry remains in compliance with state law. The ultimate responsibility of the program is to ensure mine sites in Missouri are returned to a suitable land use and the adverse effects from active mining operations are minimized. When land affected by mining is properly reclaimed, it can again be used for agriculture, wildlife, water bodies and industrial development.

The program also receives annual grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which is funded by a federal severance tax on coal mined nationwide, to reclaim abandoned coal mine land.

Direct Assistance to the Landowners and Industry

Seventeen staff members make up four working units within the program: Administrative, Abandoned Mine Lands, Coal, and Industrial and Metallic Mineral Mining. Together, staff are responsible for reclaiming abandoned mine lands and conducting inspections at all active mining operations in Missouri.

Staff often meet with landowners and company representatives to discuss future plans and concerns. Steve Baker, who is both a landowner and cattle rancher, recently requested a meeting. Baker was concerned when River Cement Company notified him about their plan to mine clay from an area on his property in Franklin County, where the company owns mineral rights. Staff met with Baker and the mining company to address his concerns and questions, and kept him apprised of the process and timelines. As part of the reclamation agreement, River Cement Company will install a heavy-duty cattle guard, ensure the road is in good condition and construct a nearly 1 ½-acre pond for Baker’s cattle. After permit issuance, staff received correspondence from Baker that said, “This whole process went very well. The state has a good team.”

Missouri Mining Commission

The Missouri Mining Commission is a governing body that represents the Governor and the department in matters related to mineral extraction regulations. The commission includes representatives from industry, academia and the department.

Read more about the Land Reclamation Program online on the Department of Natural Resources' Mining and Land Reclamation webpage. A video that highlights successful mining and reclamation efforts in Missouri can be seen at youtu.be/sWZjs_LWUXs.

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