Date of Graduation
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Approximately 40% of operating mines in West Virginia are surface mines, producing around 50 million tons of coal each year. Federal regulations that have been designed to control environmental impacts associated with surface mining are becoming increasingly stringent. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Division of Mining and Reclamation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently have delayed or temporarily suspended surface mining permits because of the implementation of more rigorous standards relating to reclamation and post-mining land use. As the demand for energy continues to increase, there is a need to find an alternative to the typical surface mine reclamation techniques used today in Appalachia.;The short-term outcome of this research was to assess the feasibility of coal companies to implement geomorphic design into surface mine reclamation in Appalachia. Many other considerations were studied throughout the duration of this project. Laws and regulations were also evaluated to determine where geomorphic design may be applied in Appalachian surface mining. With regulations becoming more stringent and changing frequently, implementing geomorphic ideas into the steep terrain of Appalachia while adhering to current regulations is a challenge. However, this is the first step in creating a successful geomorphic reclamation design.;The long-term outcome of this research was to incorporate Carlson RTM's Natural RegradeRTM with GeoFluv(TM) software to create a geomorphic design for a sample surface mine in southern West Virginia. While this innovative reclamation design approach has been used with success in semi-arid regions of the United States, as well as throughout the world, the approach has not been utilized in West Virginia. One main purpose of this project was to analyze the effectiveness of geomorphic reclamation on surface mines in West Virginia as well as a comparison of the features of the completed geomorphic valley-fill design contrasted to an approximate original contour variance valley-fill design. By creating a geomorphic reclamation design for a site in West Virginia, data could be collected and compared directly to traditional designs in order to determine and assess advantages and disadvantages of implementing this innovative surface reclamation technique in Appalachia.;A safety analysis was also performed to compare both a traditional valley-fill design and the completed geomorphic valley-fill design so that any significant safety benefits or disadvantages could be assessed. Stream analysis, including the length of original streams, length of created streams, stream classification, and stream type, was performed to identify complete drainage systems. All of the numerous aspects that were analyzed between the traditional and geomorphic valley-fill designs, in return, yielded an accurate analysis of the benefits and/or disadvantages of the nontraditional reclamation approach as well as the ability to implement this geomorphic reclamation design method in West Virginia. Following the comparison, it was found that the Approximate Original Contour (AOC) variance valley-fill design was intended to ensure slope stability, control drainage, complement the drainage pattern of the surrounding terrain, and prevent stream sedimentation. The design consisted of:;• slope shapes exhibiting uniform benches.;• planar slopes having unvarying contours.;• drainage ditches located along the perimeter and/or center of the fill.;However, the traditional, planar reclamation method can be improved to appear more natural and decrease the drawbacks associated with it.;Features of the resulting Natural RegradeRTM design include:;• long-term stability due to dynamic equilibrium.;• suggested reduction in maintenance due to stability.;• projected reduced cost due to strategic placement of fill material.;• more aesthetically pleasing valley fill due to a diverse natural habitat with ridges and valleys.;These landform designs add variability and aid in establishing a site with a long-term hydrologic balance. The geomorphic landform reclamation approach has potential to extend beyond current industry practices and will improve environmental impacts, flood control, water quality, and human safety.
Sears, Alison E., "The Integration of Geomorphic Design into West Virginia Surface Mine Reclamation" (2012). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 4916.