Virginia will use $10 million to turn old coal mines into tourist sites, broadband infrastructure

(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Virginia will use $10 million to turn projects in its Abandoned Mine Land program into economic development initiatives, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced.

The state will award grants to groups who want to reclaim old mining sites and turn them into tourist attractions, sites that support rural broadband infrastructure or clean energy initiatives.

Northam said the “possibilities are endless” when it comes to ideas for old mining sites.

“This program provides the commonwealth a tremendous win-win to improve our natural environment and to generate exciting economic development opportunities in Southwest Virginia,” Northam said in a release announcing the funding, which comes from the federal government.

The Abandoned Mine Land program was created in 1977 to manage the threats abandoned mines pose, including landslides, acid mine drainage and stream sedimentation.

Virginia offers competitive grants to groups that want to reclaim mining sites for safety reasons, but this is the first time the state has added the economic development requirement.

Most of the sites are on the Virginia-Tennessee border, according a map the state keeps.

“These federal dollars give us the opportunity to expand the program to provide additional economic benefits to the coalfield region,” said John Warren, the director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The department will be overseeing the grant program.

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.