Ruffner Mountain wins nation’s highest abandoned mine land reclamation award

Abandoned mine portal gate at Ruffner Mountain. Photo by Bob Farley, provided to Bham Now by the Alabama Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program

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

Ruffner Mountain staff, volunteers and state agency staff in front of abandoned mine portal gate at Ruffner Mountain. Photo by Bob Farley, provided to Bham Now by the Alabama Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program

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.


Ruffner Mine #3 Bats 05012017 – Dottie Brown, Senior Ecologist, Ecological Solutions, . Chris Cornelison, Research Scientist Kennesaw State University.

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.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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