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Bowman County Courthouse
104 1st St NW
Bowman, ND 58623

 

Bowman's Halleck Mine reclamation snags top industry award

July 22, 2016

Joan Breiner, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, observes the reclamation progress at the Halleck Mine in Bowman last summer. (Pioneer File Photo/Bryce Martin)
Joan Breiner, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, observes the reclamation progress at the Halleck Mine in Bowman last summer. (Pioneer File Photo/Bryce Martin)

By BRYCE MARTIN
Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

It wasn’t too long ago that a sizable chunk of earth in Bowman County randomly opened up and nearly swallowed its surroundings. It would soon become one woman’s job to ensure that the vulnerable plot of land, a former coal mine, would never again pose a danger.

Joan Breiner led a team with the North Dakota Public Service Commission’s Abandoned Mine Lands Program last summer to execute the painstaking mission of reclaiming the Halleck Mine, located only several yards south of the city of Bowman’s dump grounds.

The project was finished in a timely manner and without incident, eventually leading Breiner and her team to be recognized as producing one of the highest quality coal mine reclamation projects in the nation.

“The Halleck Mine Project in Bowman is another example of our state’s strong reclamation program. We continue to work to ensure federal rules allow for state leadership, both in producing the energy our nation needs and ensuring the quality of our environment,” commended Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Energy and Appropriations Committees.

“North Dakota continues to prove that good environmental stewardship does not need to come at the cost of jobs or the economy,” Hoeven added in a statement.

The Halleck Mine was an underground mine that operated from about 1919 to 1944. The coal seam at this mine was 30 to 40 feet thick and the top of the coal seam was only 10 to 50 feet below the surface. Sinkholes were common in the area and previous exploratory drilling had located mine voids near public roads and a large 30-inch diameter high-pressure natural gas pipeline. In 2014, emergency repairs had to be completed due to several large sinkholes that severed a fiber optic telecommunications cable and were within 90 feet of the pipeline.

The reclamation project primarily involved drilling and grouting to locate and fill underground mine voids along public roads and near the pipeline. Special safety measures had to be taken during the drilling and grouting to prevent any damage to the pipeline while ensuring the voids were filled.

“Because of the reclamation fee being paid by current mine operations, the PSC is able to repair some of these sites that were abandoned decades ago,” said Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann, who holds the coal mining, reclamation and AML portfolios. “It allows us to protect our infrastructure and our citizens without using taxpayer dollars. This was a particularly challenging project and our team did a great job.”

The goal of the AML Program is to eliminate hazards related to coal mining that was conducted prior to the enactment of the 1977 federal reclamation act. The Commission receives funds for the program from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from the collection of a federal reclamation fee that is collected on all coal that is mined.

The award will be presented in September as part of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Programs annual meeting in Bozeman, Mont. Breiner will also present a paper on the project at the meeting.

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