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The practice of "approximate original contour" in the central Appalachians. I. Slope stability and erosion potential.
Bell JC; Daniels WL; Zipper CE
Landsc Urban Plan 1989 Dec; 18(2):127-138
Surface mining for coal had disturbed hundreds of thousands of acres in the Appalachians by the mid-1970's. The mined landscape created by typical "shoot-and-shove" mining methods during this era led to severe water-quality and land-use problems. Enacted in 1977, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) required that all mining spoil be stabilized and returned to "approximate original contour" (aoc) wherever possible. This requirement is controversial in the steeply sloping Appalachian mining region. The major goal of this research was to objectively evaluate the long-term slope stability and potential erosivity of central Appalachian aoc landforms. Many aoc backfills in this region face long-term stability problems. The major factors leading to backfill instability are (1) excessively steep and/or convex fill configurations, (2) excessive seepage leading to loss of fill strength, and (3) inaccurate estimation of spoil shear strength parameters and fill safety factors. Slope failures may occur both within and beyond the 5-yr bond release period mandated by SMCRA. Steeply sloping siltstone spoils are particularly prone to erosion losses, and rapid revegetation is essential for the stabilization of aoc slopes. Widespread implementation of alternative landforms that utilize hollow fills for excess spoil disposal while still eliminating the highwall would greatly reduce the potential for slope failures and erosion by reducing total backfill slope areas and lengths.
James C. Bell, Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0404 (U.S.A.)
OP; Journal Article
MIR 25-90; Grant-Number-G1144151
Issue of Publication
Landscape and Urban Planning
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Page last reviewed: October 22, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division