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Funding available for the Navajo Nation and states for abandoned mine lands projects

By: - July 21, 2022 2:44 pm

Black Mesa coal mine in 2017. Photo by Nick Oza | Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

More than 20 states and the Navajo Nation can now apply for $725 million in funding for abandoned mine lands projects to help communities that have suffered environmental hazards and pollution caused by coal mining. 

“Through this program, we are investing in coal communities through job creation — including for current and former coal workers — and economic revitalization, all while addressing harmful environmental impacts from these legacy developments,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a press release.

The funding for the abandoned mine lands, or AML, grant program is part of the 2021 infrastructure spending bill, which will provide $11.3 billion in AML grant funding over 15 years.


“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers the largest investment in cleaning up abandoned mine lands in history,” Haaland said..

The Biden administration released the final guidance for the AML grant process on Thursday, and the Navajo Nation and 22 states are eligible for funding. 

The Navajo Nation is the only tribal entity that is eligible to apply for funding from the AML grant program. The Navajo Nation is reported to have 273 coal, 33 copper and over 1,000 non-coal abandoned mines, according to the Navajo AMLR Department.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to addressing legacy pollution and helping working families in every way we can who face hazardous pollution, toxic water levels, and land subsidence both during mining and long after coal companies have moved on,” Haaland said.

The final guidance was developed with input from states, labor and environmental groups and it will provide AML programs with information about project eligibility and priorities for the use of the funds available for the 2022 Fiscal Year. 

“AML reclamation projects support vitally needed jobs by investing in projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, prevent releases of harmful gases, including methane, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining,” the Department of the Interior said in a press release. 

Some of the key elements of the final guidance include encouraging states and tribes to prioritize projects that invest in disadvantaged communities, incorporate public review and comment, design projects to maximize the number of methane emissions that can be reduced, and to prioritize the employment of current and former coal industry workers.

Funding for the AML projects were first announced in February, the Department of Interior will allocate and distribute nearly $725 million annually over the next 15 years, based on need. 

“As required by the Infrastructure Law, these allocations are determined based on the number of tons of coal historically produced in each state or on Indian lands before August 3, 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) was enacted,” the Department of Interior stated.


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Shondiin Silversmith
Shondiin Silversmith

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues.