limitations to future land uses. These include former coal refuse piles, mine spoil areas, slurry impoundments, and underground coal mines with a high potential for subsidence.
Reclaimed coal refuse piles, mine spoil areas, and slurry impoundments should not be built upon for many years unless special construction methods are used. During reclamation, these materials may be covered by only two to four feet of earth to provide adequate depth for plant growth. Reclaimed coal mining areas may be difficult for the public to recognize without prior training or experience. These coal mining areas will continue consolidating over time and may be structurally unstable without earth compaction methods.
In home and building construction, excavations for basements and foundations may also expose toxic and acidic coal mine wastes resulting in loss of reclamation and construction damage. Structures built in these areas may also be susceptible to accumulation of CO2 and other coal mine gases. If basements and crawl spaces are excavated into recently mined and reclaimed mine spoil, CO2 may fill the completed structure to concentrations which can cause injury or death to the occupants if not properly ventilated. Abandoned underground coal mines near the surface may be susceptible to subsidence, causing very serious structural damage as room-and-pillar mining areas collapse many years after abandonment. The OSM AML inventory only identifies areas where abandoned mines have already subsided, causing damage to existing structures, and not those locations in which abandoned coal mines may yet subside in the future. Prior public knowledge of the location of former coal mining areas is required to adequately plan for construction in these areas and address potential problems.
Dissemination of coal mining spatial data to the nation provides opportunities for others outside the SMCRA community to benefit from state and federal coal mining spatial data resources. In the future, these data may help inform the public about the extent and potential impacts of existing and proposed surface and underground coal mining operations, reduce the amount of new construction on abandoned mine sites, help reduce the growth of the AML inventory by public awareness of the location of abandoned coal mines, support MSHA responses to underground coal mine emergencies, assist the USGS in their efforts to estimate remaining coal reserves (Tewalt et al., 2001), help update surface land use and geologic information for improved environmental impact assessments, and enhance the utility and relevance of the approximately 134,000 underground mine map images contained in the National Mine Map Repository managed by OSM by providing a “geographic footprint” which can be used as a spatial index to the location of the map image.
Recent legislation in Virginia may someday be perceived as the first State initiative tying mining activities to Community Right to Know. In 2006 the Commonwealth passed requiring that, for the sale of new dwellings the builder or owner (if the builder is not the owner), must disclose to the purchaser whether the builder or owner has any knowledge of (i) whether mining operations had previously been conducted on the property or (ii) the presence of abandoned mines, shafts, or pits.