FILE - Coal miner

(The Center Square) – A new report indicates Ohio, as well as other eastern coal states, may not have the bond funding needed to cover the costs necessary to prepare thousands of acres of mined land for new uses.

Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, said it found 633,000 acres across Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia that need either partial or complete reclamation work. Accomplishing that is expected to cost between $7.5 billion to $9.8 billion, but the states only have $3.8 billion available.

The lands in question are mines that were established after Congress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in 1977. That law requires companies applying for a mining permit to post a reclamation bond, which would fund reclamation work in the event it was abandoned.

While only Tennessee had less outstanding mined land, representatives from Appalachian Voices still fear Ohio faces significant risks of not having enough funding to cover reclamation work.

Most of the state’s outstanding mined land has had some work done, the report found. However, Ohio has just $70.5 million in bond money remaining, and the organization estimated the remaining reclamation work could take between $214 million to $262 million.

At just 27% of the high-end estimate, Ohio has the biggest liability, percentage-wise, of all seven states.

Mining companies are responsible for the reclamation work, but the report said it was unclear how much of the work those companies will be able to do.

“However, given the decline in the industry, it is clear that some reclamation obligation will fall to the states to address through state bonding programs,” the report stated. “How much reclamation obligation will be abandoned remains to be seen.”

Appalachian Voices says mine reclamation isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s an economic issue as well since the reclamation projects would create hundreds or more jobs in areas where unemployment and poverty rates far exceed the national average.

In Ohio, that could mean more than 1,300 job years or one year’s worth of full-time work for more than 1,300 people.

“Getting this reclamation started will literally put coal miners back to work, doing the reclamation that they were always supposed to be doing and that many of the workers that I've spoken with over my 10 years here want to do,” Erin Savage said.