In Tennessee, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has operated a Federal regulatory program as the primary regulator under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) since October 1984 when the State repealed its surface mining law. OSMRE also has regulatory authority responsibilities for surface coal mining activities in the states of Georgia and North Carolina since they never adopted approved state programs under SMCRA.
OSMRE's Knoxville Field Office (KFO) is in charge of oversight of the Tennessee Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program implemented by the State of Tennessee's Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). TDEC is required to follow the guidelines set by OSMRE Directives AML 22, Evaluation of State and Tribal Abandoned Mine Land Programs; GMT 10, Federal Assistance Manual; and AML 1, Abandoned Mine Land Inventory.
Overview of Tennessee Coal Mining Industry
The Tennessee coal resources are located in 22 counties. They extend from the Kentucky border to the Alabama border in the east central portion of Tennessee as illustrated in Figure 1. Mining in the northern counties is primarily in the steep slope areas of the Cumberland Mountain range. Area mining has been the primary method of mining in the southern counties due to the relatively flat terrain associated with the Cumberland Plateau.
Read more about the Tennessee Coal Mining Industry
Tennessee’s recoverable coal reserves of 0.5 billion short tons exist in bituminous coal beds that range from less than 28 inches to 42 inches in thickness at depths of up to 1,000 feet. The primary use of Tennessee coal is to generate electric power.
In calendar year 2017, Tennessee ranked twenty-second in coal production among the 25 coal producing states. Tennessee also ranked twenty-second the previous year. Coal production declined from a high of approximately 11.26 million tons in 1972 to 0.45 million tons in calendar year 2017. Various factors may continue to affect the rate of coal production in Tennessee, including competition from regions with lower production costs, competition from natural gas and renewable energy sources, declining markets, and an overall decline in coal consumption.
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, five mines produced coal in Tennessee. Coal was produced at two surface mines comprised of 1,810.9 acres and three underground mines comprised of 172.5 acres. The permitted acreage for the underground mines does not include the shadow area, which is the footprint of the underground disturbance transposed to the surface area above.
Annual Evaluation Reports
The annual evaluation reports for the Tennessee and Georgia Federal Program for evaluation years from 1996 to 2016 can be accessed below.
Access the Annual Evaluation Reports
Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Projects
To comply with NEPA notification provisions and for the convenience of the public, the NEPA determination documents for projects in Tennessee authorized after October 1, 2014, are available on the Tennessee Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Projects page in PDF version.
The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Plan between OSMRE and TDEC assures each agency accomplishes the goals of Title IV of SMCRA and Tennessee Statute 59-8-324, States Program to Acquire and Reclaim Land Disturbed by Past Mining; and Rules of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Chapter 400-1-24, Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program. Find more information on Tennessee's AML Program.
Access the AML Reclamation Plans (Performance Agreements/Work Plans)
Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition
Under SMCRA, a member of the public may petition a state regulatory authority to declare areas not otherwise precluded from coal mining operations as "lands unsuitable for mining" (LUM). Such a designation would mean that no new surface coal mining permits could be issued within the designated area. As the SMCRA regulatory authority in Tennessee, OSMRE evaluated a petition that designated more than 67,000 acres as unsuitable for surface coal mining in FY 2017. Read more about Tennessee LUM >