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Surface Mining of Coal 

Strip MiningCoal is mined in Alberta, with most being used to generate electricity.  The rest is metallurgical coal used for the manufacture of steel.  Most coal in Alberta is surface mined.  Vegetation is cleared and the topsoil is removed and stored for later replacement.  Subsoil and overburden are also removed and stored separately and then the coal is mined.  To reclaim the land, the overburden and subsoil are replaced in their correct order and contoured.  The topsoil is replaced and the land is seeded with the right kind of vegetation for the intended land use.  Establishing vegetation also helps to prevent erosion.

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Without reclamation, the effects of surface mining can be seen for years.  The unstable land around the coal pits and the coal spoil piles would be unsuitable for agriculture and would present safety hazards.  Wildlife would continue to be affected by the loss of vegetation and habitat like they are during the mining process.  Therefore, reclamation is critical.

Reprinted from Focus On Land Reclamation  (1999) with permission of Alberta Environment.

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