On September 15, 1978, David Callaghan (WV Department of Natural Resources Director) held a meeting in Elkins, WV, to address the problem of acid mine drainage associated with surface mining the Kittanning coal seams in the central part of West Virginia. At a subsequent meeting, Director Callaghan appointed an interdisciplinary committee composed of industry and regulatory representatives, as well as West Virginia University researchers and persons from consulting firms. The committee was charged with defining the acid mine drainage (AMD) problem in the region and prescribing methods and procedures that would allow mining while maintaining water quality during and after mining. Subsequently the committee became known as the West Virginia Surface Mine Drainage Task Force.
After much deliberation at monthly meetings during the next year, the Task Force developed a landmark publication in 1979 entitled “Suggested Guidelines for Method of Operation in Surface Mining of Areas with Potentially Acid-Producing Materials.” The bulletin defined several basic characteristics for which a mine site must be examined before mining and included consideration of ground and surface water, overburden analysis, topography and land use, geology, mining equipment, and economic feasibility.
The bulletin further identified specific techniques for handling surface water, ground water, and overburden during the mining process that would help control AMD. Concepts that were emphasized included: accurately sampling and analyzing overburden to identify alkaline- or acid-producing materials; mixing acid materials with alkaline materials or ameliorants for acid neutralization, and; strategically placing acid-producing materials in the backfill where air and water contact are minimized.
The 1979 bulletin represented state-of-the-art technology for the control of AMD and became the standard throughout Appalachia for mining activities that involved handling potentially acid-producing materials.
After writing this bulletin, members of the Task Force realized that many other ideas and procedures were being developed to control and treat AMD. Therefore, the Task Force established new objectives in addition to the original mandate from Director Callaghan. The objectives of the Task Force were to keep current on new developments in AMD research, AMD treatment and control practices, and to present this information at annual symposia.
In April 1980, the first Task Force symposium was held in Clarksburg, WV, to a relatively small audience of 100 people. Since 1980, symposia have been held every spring (usually in Morgantown, WV). Attendance has fluctuated over the years due to changes in the mining and reclamation industry and in regulations, but has steadily grown to annual attendance figures around 300. Attendees come from all areas of the country and several foreign countries. Many attendees consider Task Force meetings to contain the most current and important work in AMD in the world. Proceedings from previous symposia are available in the Past Symposium Papers section of this site.
An update to the 1979 bulletin was completed in 1987. This update re-emphasized the use of overburden sampling techniques and analysis of overburden materials by Acid-Base Accounting and leaching techniques to predict their acid-producing potential. In addition, new developments in acid prevention such as alkaline trenches, liners and seals, bactericides, special handling procedures, and revegetation practices were detailed. New chemical treatment technologies were also highlighted, as well as introducing the concept of AMD treatment by passive methods such as wetlands.
In recent years, the Task Force has expanded their studies of mine drainage (from metals and acidity) to include any constituent of environmental concern. Symposia presentations and poster sessions present the latest efforts at predicting, preventing, and controlling Total Dissolved Solids, Selenium, Sulfate, and other parameters perceived or responsible for diminished water quality. This includes challenges to water uses from both acid and alkaline mine drainage as well as documentation of protection and restoration of mined watersheds.
Today, the 29 Task Force members represent the coal mining industry, regulators, private consultants, and research scientists. The Task Force remains active by holding bi-monthly meetings, sponsoring the spring symposium, and hosting a fall field tour. In this way, the Task Force members continue to keep current on new technologies and practices in mine drainage prediction, control, and treatment.
The Task Force has periodically held meetings in conjunction with the American Society of Mining and Reclamation (ASMR), the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Program (NAAMLP). Papers from all past symposiums can be viewed or downloaded at the Past Symposium Papers page. The 40th Anniversary of the Task Force was celebrated at the 2019 annual symposium.