Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) held a two-day convergence on the future of the anthracite industry in Pennsylvania, by bringing members and delegates of the State Joint Legislative Air, Water, Pollution Control and Conservation Committee and other organizations together to discuss the mining industry of Schuylkill County.

The first day involved a five-hour mobile tour of high interest locations and projects throughout Schuylkill County that concern the mining industry. The tour was lead by Daniel Koury, Pottsville District Mining Operations watershed manager for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The second day involved a public hearing held in Mahanoy City that talked about concerns of the future of anthracite coal mining.

Talks during both the mine tour and at the hearing revolved around coal and waste usage, reclamation and bonding, environmental changes and obligations, and the industry's economic concerns. Topics regarding the Federal Mine Safety Act were also areas of concern.

Some officials, representatives, and others present during the two-day focus were Argall; Schuylkill Headwaters Association President William Reichert; Schuylkill Township Supervisor Linda DeCindio; Schuylkill Township Secretary/Treasurer Mary Bubel; Schuylkill Conservation District Megan Blackmon; DEP's Abandon Mine Reclamation BAMR Todd Wood, Schuylkill Headwaters Association Vice President Ian Palmer, Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee communications specialist Geoffrey MacLaughlin; and Pennsylvania Anthracite Council's Duane Feagley.

Also participating were Craig D. Brooks, executive director of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation; Tony Guerrieri, staff member, Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee; state Rep. Jerry Knowles; state Sen. Anthony Musto; Rep. Richard Fox; Nick Troutman, Argall staff member; state Rep. Neal Goodman; Daniel R. Blaschak, vice president Blaschak Coal Corp. and chairman of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Council; Pottsville Mayor John Reiley; Thomas Palamar, city administrator; Scott Roberts, deputy secretary of the Office of Mineral Resources Management of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The first place visited on the tour included the Mary D Borehole Treatment Project, a future mine water treatment project for acid mine drainage. It will be located at an old baseball field on Valley Street at the entrance to Mary D.

The Schuylkill Headwaters Association has received an EPA 319 Grant in the amount of $664,500 for the construction of a mine draining treatment system for the Mary D boreholes. This project is the final result of several years of work done by various private, governmental, and quasi-governmental entities. In order to allow for the project, a new recreation complex with a baseball field, multipurpose field, walking trail, and skating pond was completed for the citizens of Mary D in 2008.

As part of the Mary D recreation complex project, the Schuylkill Headwaters Association was granted a permanent easement by the owners of the old ball field parcel (the Mary D Fire Company) to construct a passive wetland treatment system.

"This project is a true testament to local involvement" Koury stated. "People gave grassroots effort to take something and improve it and they looked at it as a way to do something for the community and to treat the mine waters."

About 90 percent of the iron should be removed from the water.

Reichert said the organization has an implementation plan to address abandoned mine drainage projects down through the watershed. The Bell Colliery system, located on the other side of SR 209 at the entrance to Mary D, is the first project of the watershed, and the Mary D Borehole Project is next.

"That mine pool water is heavily laden with iron, and we want to get that out before it gets into the Schuylkill River, which is just on the other side of the ball field here," said Reichert.

The Mary D treatment project came together with the efforts of a lot of people and agencies, Reichert added. He also pointed out that Blaschak donated about 10 acres of land to build what is now the Mary D Fire Company Sports Complex.

The project will start as soon as permits and related issues are addressed. The passive system will treat approximately 1.7 million gallons of water per day.

The second stop on the tour was the Alfred Brown Coal Company in Blythe Township, near New Philadelphia. This stop involved a drive through inactive and active mine land comprising the well-known Mammoth Coal Vein. The mine employs about five miners. It is a slope mine with its primary workings approximately 300 feet below the surface. The mine was started in 2001.

The third stop was the Sharp Mountain Reclamation Project. It was financed via the Growing Greener Project. Dangerous mine subsidence and cropfalls, future reclamation plans, and safety concerns were the main topics at this location. Mayor Reiley and Palamar also pointed out their concerns. The city has received a $504,000 grant to backfill and reclaim the dangerous features. This project will restore hazards as well as prevent surface water from becoming polluted in the minepool.

The last stop was the Primrose Mine on the outskirts of Mahanoy City. The mine is operated by Blaschak Coal Company. At the site, the group viewed a large anthracite surface mine.

A large percentage of its coal goes to the industrial marketplace, such as uses in steel mills, for water treatment, sugar beet industry, and briquetting. Advancements in anthracite coal burning technologies continue to expand a range of usage from commercial and manufacturing industries.

Wednesday's Joint Conservative hearing was hosted by Argall, and topics revolved around the future of anthracite coal mining as well as addressed industry matters that keep coal mining competitive.

"Today, I feel we're still dealing with the sins of the past," Argall said, pointing out that we are paying for almost a hundred years of unregulated mining.