The objective of this research was to (1) determine existing reclamation practices and success for surface coal mines in the northern great plains, (2) determine the optimum soil-depth requirements for grass production, and (3) determine plant uptake of nutrients and trace elements. Fourteen field plots were established at active coal mines. A wedge was cut into spoil and back-filled with soil; soil depth ranged from zero to 152 cm over a linear distance of 15 m. Perennial grasses were planted in each plot and production was measured from 1978 to 1981. Spoil for type I was near neutral, slightly saline, nonsodic, and clay loam in texture. Perennial grasses reached maximum production with approximately 50 cm of soil depth. Spoil for type II plots was characterized as sodic and fine textured; soil-depth requirements averaged 83 cm for maximum production. Spoil for type III plots was characterized as strongly acid, and production increased throughout the range tested. Spoil for type IV plots was similar to soil in chemical and physical traits; there was no production response to soil depth. Soil-depth requirements were also dependent upon precipitation and species. In general, soil-depth requirements decreased in dry years and with use of introduced species. An appendix contains data evaluations on an individual plot basis.