Environmental geology of abandoned lignitic- and bituminous-coal mines of Texas
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Lignitic, canneloid, and bituminous coals have been mined in Texas since at least the early 1800's and possibly the 1750's. Inactive mining districts are located in most regions of the state and mining continues in several areas. The mined seams of coal lie within sedimentary sequences of the Upper Pennsylvanian, Upper Cretaceous, and lower and middle Eocene Series. Most of the production before 1924 was from underground mines, whereas all coal extracted since the late 1940's has come from surficial mines. Prior to the 1970's, few mines were reclaimed. Consequently, many sites of abandoned coal mines in the state exhibit a wide range of adverse, environmental-geologic conditions, varying both in type and intensity. Conditions at these sites include: subsidence and faulting; effects of combustion; production of toxic, geochemical leachates; erosion, sedimentation, and effects on drainage; and the presence of open mine shafts, structural and mechanical debris, large spoil mounds, and miscellaneous refuse. Quantitative assessments of these conditions at selected sites were qualitatively extrapolated to other areas to permit evaluation of conditions statewide. Some of the most severely affected sites have been reclaimed under the regulatory authority of the Railroad Commission of Texas and by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. Of the more than 260 sites of abandoned coal mines in Texas perhaps one-fourth eventually may require some corrective attention.