The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement says in a 1996 video many the restored areas being more productive than those areas were prior to being mined. For more about OSM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uq7YI8AHnQ To see the full 1969 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaUPOITVzaY
This is how OSM is really getting coal mined aread reclaimed:
OSM began administering a federal program in Tennessee on 10/1/1984, as a result of the state revoking its primacy program that OSM had approved in 1982.
OSM Knoxfille Field Office (KFO) 2010 report, covering Fiscal Year 2010 -- 10/2009 to 9/2010
(Except from pages 9-10)
Abandoned Sites in Tennessee and Georgia are required to be inspected by KFO on a site specific inspection frequency inaccordance with the criteria and determination established in 30 C. F. R. 842.11 (e) and (f) (the abandoned rule). These sites have had some reclamation, but it is insufficient to satisfy the regulatory requirements for complete reclamation. The vast marjority of these sites have inspection frequencies of one complete inspection per calendar year. Due to a shortage of field inspectors , the KFO has found it necessary to prioritize its workload to ensure that sites with the greatest potential for adverse impacts (active sites) receive adequate inspections. The majority of abandoned sites have existed for greater than 20 years and have healed to a large extent with naturaly occurring vegetation and become stablized. Due to this workload and the resulting prioritization, KFO was unable to inspect a majority of abandoned site in FY2010. Eight complete inspections and one partial inspection were conducted of the 168 abandoned sites during FY 2010.
During FY 2010 KFO conducted evaluations of thirty three permanent program bond forfeited sites to determine if natural vegetation processes had stablized these disturbances to meet the intent of SMCRA and to allow the removal of the sites from the inspectable units list (IUL). Thirteen of these sites were subsequently removed from the IUL because the disturbances were adequately stablized to met the intent of SMCRA. The remaining twenty sites were found to have deficiencies which prevented removal from the IUL. Evaluations of these sites included recommendations for corrective work to move these sites towards complete reclamation and removal from the IUL.
(From Table 2, Inspectable Units, page 36)
There are 300 inspectable units in Tennessee. (Each permit is an inspectable unit.) Of those, 121 are interim program (permits issued before the approval of the Tennesse state reguatory program effective August 10, 1982) and 179 are permanent program (permits issued after that date). There are 118 units that are active or in temporary cessation of mining; 168 (117 interim program and 51 permanent program). Only 14 of the 300 units have been fully reclaimed and are awaiting completion of the five-year vegetation success period. The total acreage under permit is 318,300 acres with permanent program permits being 282,000 acres of that total.
(Excerpts) Of the 7,193 since 1980, most of the bond forfietures occurred in the 1980s (60%) and 1990s (31%); since 2005 there have been 203 forfeitures (3%) in 7 states -- IL(5), IN(4), KY(29), MD(12), PA(82), TN(11) and WV(60). Three states together have 70% of all the bond forfeitures occurring since 1980 -- KY (2,924 ),PA (1,020) and WV (1,117). Six other states account for another 26% -- AL(646), IN (215), OH (313), OK (178), TN (255) and VA (252). The remaining ones are in thirteen states.
On the OSM maintained Inspectable Units List for the Alabama state administered regulatory program there are 242 Inspectable Units which includes 48 Bond Forfeitures -- 20% of the total units -- many of which had permit expiration dates that were decades ago, even back 1984. The total permitted acreage of these Bond Forfeitures is 10,749 acres which is nearly 17 square miles. (10 or more those 48 Bond Forfeitures seem to have occurred after 2001.)
http://www.osmre.gov/Reports/EvalInfo/2009/AL09-aml-reg.pdf - Alabama's inspectable units as of June 30, 2009, totaled 214, which includes 41 bond forfeitures; 4,910 arces were newly bonded and 440 acres were newly forfeited -- a ratio of one acre being forfeited for every 11 acres being bonded. From 1983 through 2008, bond forfeitures occurred on 15,034 of the 129,922 acres that had been permitted -- a permittee failure to perform reclamation rate of nearly 12 percent.
http://www.osmre.gov/Reports/EvalInfo/2008/AL08-aml-reg.pdf - Alabama's inspectable units as of June 30, 2008, totaled 214, which includes 42 bond forfeitures; 3,618 arces were newly bonded and 726 acres were newly forfeited -- a ratio of one acre being forfeited for every 5 acres being bonded.