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Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program

Illinois Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program

Early settlers of Illinois mined numerous outcroppings of coal for local use. These earlier mines, often called "dogholes" were shallow, horizontal tunnels driven into generally thin coal seams.

With the onset of industrialization in the mid-1800's the demand for coal began to dramatically increase. Large scale mines were opened, having shafts (vertical openings) or slopes (inclined openings) to access the coal seam and provide ventilation. Railroads allowed for the establishment of large shipping mines. Strip mining of coal began around 1910 with the introduction of the steam shovel for removing the overburden.

By the 1960's more than half of the coal mined was by stripping. From a record level of 1350 mines in 1935, the number of active coal mines has declined precipitously to about 20 today. During the years of rapid technological advancement, little attention was given to the serious adverse effects of coal mining.

By the late 1970's over 200,000 acres of land had been affected by surface and deep mining of coal in Illinois. Of this disturbed acreage, over 22,000 acres were identified as being "problem" acreage. The acreage includes areas with exposed refuse material (gob and slurry), tipple sites, toxic or sparsely vegetated spoil banks, and adversely affected water and land.

By 1977, over one million acres of land had been disturbed by coal mining in the United States, having left thousands of open or inadequately sealed mine shafts and slopes, mine gas leaks, mine fires, polluting refuse piles and spoil ridges as well as subsidence problems.

Attention to these serious health and safety conditions and extensive environmental problems led to enactment of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-78) which set detailed mining and reclamation standards and regulations for all future coal mining activities.

This act also established an Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program and fund to address the serious coal mining problems which were abandoned prior to August 3, 1977. Extremely hazardous conditions occurring at abandoned non-coal sites such as lead, zinc, and flourspar are also eligible under specific conditions.

Illinois AML Program

The Department of Natural Resources, Office of Mines and Minerals, Abandoned Mined Land Reclamation Division, operates the AML program in Illinois. Funding for the reclamation program is provided by a special production fee on active coal mining. The OSMRE collects these fees on a per ton basis and returns the money to the state in the form of reclamation grants.

To date, the Illinois AML program has completed over 550 projects, addressed more than 775 mine sites and reclaimed nearly 9,400 acres of land in Illinois, at a cost of approximately 146 million dollars. 1,236 mine openings have been sealed, 907 hazardous tipple structures remouved, 5,850 acres of gob and slurry and 1,900 acres of spoil stabilized, and 1,400 acres of affected land and water restored.


Reclamation Priority: Federal law requires that reclamation projects be accomplished in accordance with program guidelines and the priority of hazard and/or environmental problems presented. Sites that pose a threat to public health or safety, such as improperly sealed shafts receive top funding priority.

Project Construction: Reclamation projects are designed by the AMLRD staff or by qualified engineering consultants. Construction is performed by independent contractors selected through a bidding process. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources contracts directly with all consultants and contractors. Landowners are neither responsible for any costs, nor do they receive any direct compensation for the reclamation work performed on their property.

Management: After reclamation, sites or portions of sites often remain sensitive and can be easily damaged. AMLRD staff will recommend land use prior to beginning a reclamation project. Once the project is completed and the site is revegetated, the landowner becomes responsible for managing and protecting the sites.
For more information or to receive an AML application, please contact the AMLR @ 217-782-0588.
Emergencies - When abandoned mine-related problems occur suddenly, are life threatening, and require immediate asttention, the AMLRD staff can respond with emergency assistance. Emergencies typically associated with abandoned mines include:
  • structure in danger of collapse due to mine subsidence
  • subsidence pits that develop in the urban areas near homes
  • methane gas leaks
  • mine refuse fires
In the event of an emergency, the AMLRD can be reached at 618-692-3197 or 217-782-0588. If the situation requires immediate attention after business hours, contact the Illinois emergency Management Agency @ 800-782-7860.

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