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A project at Ruffner Mountain has won the nation’s highest achievement in the field of abandoned mine land (AML) reclamation, thanks to efforts to protect residents along trails and bats living in abandoned mines.
This past August, the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement 2020 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards recognized the Alabama Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program for its innovative reclamation techniques and outstanding results in restoring previously mined lands.
Perfect Partnership – About the Project
According to Dustin Morin, State Mine Land Reclamation Supervisor, Ruffner Mountain contacted the state abandoned mine program around 2017 to look at abandoned open mine portals from the old iron ore operation. After spending a couple of weeks surveying the land and features from the mines, they committed to creating gates to the mines that were close to some of Ruffner’s most popular trails. The objective of the new gates were to prevent urban explorers from going into the mines, which are dangerous.
Tricolor Bats Discovered
It was soon discovered that the open mine portals not only posed a danger to the public, but also to the over 600 Tricolor bats that called the portals home. When a bat study confirmed the presence of White-nose syndrome within the bat population, the urgency to limit human entry to the portals was heightened. Teaming up with Bat Conservation International, Ruffner Mountain and the state abandoned mine reclamation agency the produced are bat friendly gates.
Bottomline, Ruffner’s trails are now safer and the bats are too. And by the way, let’s also recognize the good and important work of the Alabama Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program. This is the second consecutive year they have been honored nationally for their innovative work. Last year, they won the award for best abandoned mine project for putting out an ongoing mine fire at Alabama’s old Marvel mines that caused havoc in a small Bibb County community.