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Northeastern State University plans to reclaim abandoned mine in Oklahoma

BY DARLA SLIPKE dslipke@opubco.com Published: May 23, 2011
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Officials aren't sure how long the project will take to complete. Kastl estimated it will cost $650,000 to $750,000, which will be paid for with federal funds.

Faculty will help design the walking trail. Foutch said he hopes the area can eventually be used for hands-on learning opportunities.

“This will be a very dynamic and progressive project that will continue to grow over time,” Foutch said.

Federally funded

Without support from the Abandoned Mine Land Program, NSU would be years away from being able to reclaim the area, Foutch said.

The reclamation program is federally funded with money from a tax on coal production, Kastl said. Oklahoma has received about $46 million during the past 30 years. Funding is scheduled to continue through 2026. In fiscal year 2012, Oklahoma will begin receiving $3 million a year — an increase of $600,000 from previous years.

But the state has $100 million worth of high priority problems, Kastl said. Places that pose health or safety threats are considered high priority areas.

“At $3 million, we'll never get enough funding,” Kastl said.

Oklahoma has had 25 known deaths at abandoned mine sites since 1972, Kastl said. He said many of them were in Rogers County.

During the past 30 years, the state has reclaimed about 4,500 acres on 158 sites.

Eastern Oklahoma still has about 40,000 acres of underground mines, Kastl said.