Coalition makes catalytic investment in Appalachian coal mine reuse projects


Chelsea Barnes, New Economy Program Manager

Norton, Va. – Furthering its commitment to innovative mine reclamation projects throughout the Appalachian region, the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition (RAC) announced its investment in five projects in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Alabama as part of its inaugural mini-grant program.

The coalition solicited mine reclamation and redevelopment project ideas from organizations around the region and ultimately selected five projects to receive both financial support and technical assistance. On August 1, the coalition helped the grantees in Kentucky submit proposals for funding from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and distributed by the state’s Abandoned Mine Land Program, and is also working with the winners in Alabama and Pennsylvania to submit proposals to the Alabama Department of Labor and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in the future.

The partners and projects selected are:

  • Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR): Large-Scale Solar Development on Historic Mines in Eastern Pennsylvania. Ashley, PA
  • Backroads of Appalachia: Reclaiming Mine Lands and Boosting Economic Development through Motorsports Tourism. Lynch, KY
  • The Nature Conservancy: The Cumberland Forest Project. Middlesboro, KY
  • Appalachian Renewal Project: The Wilds of Emily Creek. Lovely, KY
  • Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc.: Alabama
    Rivers and Streams Network Runway for Reclamation. Birmingham, AL

Additional information on each of the projects is available here.

“The investments made in Alabama and Pennsylvania represent the coalition’s effort to expand its community of practice into other Appalachian states, and the investments made in Kentucky represent a reaffirmation of our commitment to land-reuse projects there,” said Joey James, Principal at Downstream Strategies. “The projects selected for the mini-grant program are community-driven, place-appropriate forms of economic development that embrace the rapidly evolving economic and social conditions of our region.”

“EPCAMR is excited to have an opportunity to develop a site selection criteria tool to assist partners and private developers consider reclaimed abandoned mine lands in Pennsylvania for potential solar installations as alternative energy economic development projects,” said Bobby Hughes, Executive Director of EPCAMR and grant recipient. “We find it very valuable to now be able to network with other coalitions across Central Appalachia as we continue to educate our communities and community leaders on additional innovative ways to reclaim our historic legacy abandoned mine lands.”

The Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition is a collaboration of organizations, focused on sustainable development, in Central Appalachia: Appalachian Voices in Virginia, Appalachian Coalfield Development Corporation in West Virginia, and Rural Action in Ohio—and regional technical expert, Downstream Strategies. The coalition works with community partnerships, organizations, and local governments to help identify, develop, fund, and implement innovative, community-focused reclamation projects that create jobs.

The coalition has engaged hundreds of people and organizations in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia, and its direct project assistance has resulted in several groundbreaking projects, totaling nearly $30 million in public and private investment in the states the organizations represent.

RAC and its mini-grant program are supported by the Just Transition Fund, New York Community Trust, and several other foundations. For more information on the Coalition and its work to reclaim and reuse Appalachia’s mine lands, visit