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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Reclamation > Abandoned Mines > About Abandoned Mine Lands About Abandoned Mines

The Restoration Section ensures proper reclamation for any previously mined site that the division has a continuing responsibility. The purpose of the reclamation is to alleviate the safety, health and environmental hazards of past coal mining practices while improving land productivity and enhancing the landscape. These sites fall under the following categories:

Federal Abandoned Mine Land Program:

A. Sites mined prior to Aug. 3, 1977 which:

  1. Have occurrences of mine-related deaths, serious personal injury or where such occurrences appear imminent.
  2. Adversely impact the public safety, health or general welfare;
  3. Result in continuing environmental degradation.

B. Sites affected between Aug. 4, 1977 and July 29, 1982 where funds available for reclamation from a bond or other financial guarantee are not sufficient to pay for adequate reclamation. This is an "interim period" prior to the Division receiving full authority from the Office of Surface Mining to regulate active coal mines.

C. Sites affected between August 4, 1977 and Nov. 5, 1990 where the coal operator's bonding company became bankrupt (insolvent sureties),

The funding for the AML Program is based on a $0.31 1/2/ton fee paid by coal operators. 100% of the construction and administrative expenses are reimbursed back to the Division through annual grants.

Forfeited Bond and Post 1977 AML Fund

The Restoration Section provides engineering design and technical support for mines that have had the bond forfeited and disturbed sites that are eligible for funding under the Post 1977 AML Fund that accrues civil penalties.


Indiana has had a history of requiring reclamation of coal mined lands since 1941. Indiana was the second state to pass laws to regulate mining. However, these laws had varying requirements until the federal law was passed in 1977 that required reclamation to previous mined land conditions. Prior to 1941 and with some of the early laws, land was abandoned or not reclaimed in a manner that could support productive uses. These sites can be dangerous as well as a source of water pollution.

Modern laws prohibited a coal operator from abandoning a site and performance bond is held in the division until all reclamation is completed. Once in awhile an operator will not reclaim a site thus requiring the revocation of the permit and forfeiture of the bond so that the land can be reclaimed under private contract.

What is an AML site?

Abandoned sites may contain a variety of problem types including:

  • Highwalls - A straight wall cut that is particularly dangerous if adjacent to public roads.
  • Hazardous materials, coal processing wastes, or other toxic materials that may affect surface water or re-vegetation.
  • Acid water, poor drainage control or undesirable surface water bodies.
  • Open shafts or entries.
  • Subsidence - an opening or depression that can affect buildings, roads or is dangerous to animals or humans caused by the collapse of an underground mine.
  • Trash, abandoned structures or equipment.
  • Barren spoil, unacceptable vegetative cover, severe erosion.
  • Soil stockpiles.
  • Non-productive or low productive farmlands.
  • Hazardous or other adverse impacts on farming operations, residential areas or communities.

What Happens when an AML site is discovered?

The division's staff begins an investigative process to determine the best way to reclaim the site. Division engineers prepare plans and specifications that are bid through state public works contracting processes. Throughout the construction period, restoration staff monitor the progress of the contractor to ensure proper completion of the project. The reclaimed site reverts back to the landowner with suggestions on appropriate management practices to maintain the site.

What you need to know

We offer a guide to help the public and local officials further understand potential problems associated with previously mined areas.

These problems may be associated with both underground and surface mined sites and can result in serious damage to improvements.

Previously mined land may have many attractive features for development as residential, industrial and recreational sites.

Hidden dangers such as dangerous mine openings, unstable highwalls, and unpredictable ground movement have resulted in serious damages to improvements on these sites. Additional problems can result from subsidence, mine spoils, mine impoundments, and landslides.

The Indiana Division of Reclamation always suggests obtaining assistance from a qualified engineer for specific site evaluation before you buy or build on previously mined land. A list of resources is provided at the end of this booklet for additional information.

Common problems