(01/04/2011)
West Virginia coal outfits walked away from hundreds of strip mines in the Mountain State, abandoning them, many during the 1950s and 1960s.

It happened before Mountaintop Removal was the coal mining norm, now described by environmentalists as a curse upon the state's mountains, valleys and rivers.

The state is getting ready to spend the latest $51.3 million allotment of federal abandoned-mine reclamation funds to fix a few of the old sites.

Money for the projects comes from more than $395 million in abandoned-mine reclamation funds provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

One of the first projects going to bid is the $586,695 cleanup of an abandoned mine near Kingwood in Preston County.

Other early projects include mines in Harrison and Taylor counties and four others in Southern West Virginia.

Part of the money comes from fees based on U.S. coal production, but a remaining $245 million comes from the U.S. Treasury, taxpayer money.

Since 1977, the program has provided more than $7 billion to clean up more than 285,000 acres abandoned by coal operators across the USA.


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