The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently passed a bill allowing easier reclamation of mines and creating more jobs in anthracite coal mining.
House Bill 1813, authorized by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, now goes to the senate for consideration.
State law requires mine operators to obtain bonding insurance to ensure sufficient funds are available to reclaim a mining site if the operator defaults. The bill, if passed, will make bonding more readily available and operators will be able to reinvest their own money into growing their business.
“The best way to create job opportunities for our citizens is to make it easier for private industry to invest in and grow their operations,” Tobash said in a news release. “The most affordable way to reclaim abandoned mine lands is to allow mine operators to re-mine these sites instead of having taxpayers foot the bill.”
According to Pennsylvania Anthracite Council, state and federal law requires mine operators to post surety bonds to ensure proper reclamation and many times the operators are forced to use lines of credit or collateralize assets to meet bonding requirements. As a result, operators have less access to working capital to upgrade equipment or hire additional employees.
Tobash said the current state bonding requirement is designed to help ensure reclamation but it is holding it back and driving up costs, costing tax payers as much as $10,000 per acre to reclaim a site. If a site is reclaimed by the industry as part of the re-mining process, it costs the taxpayers nothing according to Tobash.
The news release states it is estimated that there is still 4 to 6 billion tons of coal in reserve in the state’s anthracite region. The industry once employed 177,000 people but now only about 1,000 people work in anthracite coal mining. The industry contributes more than $200 million to the regional and state economy.
“Our region, the state and the entire country are looking for opportunities to grow jobs,” Tobash said. “We have a golden opportunity right here in our own backyard because the worldwide demand for anthracite coal is at its highest level in years.”