Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, United States

caption Surface mine is shown in the process of being reclaimed. The extreme left of the photo shows an area where spoil material has been deposited against a highwall. In the center of the picture a bulldozer is seen spreading and grading topsoil. The green area on the right reveals a recently revegetated area. Image: Division of Mine Permits, KY

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was enacted in 1977 after the US Congress recognized the need to regulate mining activity, rehabilitate abandoned mines, and protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of mining operations. Before 1977, surface coal mining landowners had abandoned 1.1 million coal mine sites in the United States. The SMCRA directed owners of coal mines to contribute bonds for land rehabilitation and environmental damages caused by mining activities. The flow of collected funds went into the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to finance restoration of abandoned sites. The act established the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement; it controls surface mining operations, reviews and approves state programs, and conducts enforcement when necessary. The SMCRA did not prohibit mountaintop coal mining, an activity that steadily increased after 1977. The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act of 1990 amended this act and extending funding operations through 1995. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 further extended funding to 2004.

Further Reading



Kenney, R. (2007). Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, United States. Retrieved from


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