Impacts of Longwall Mining on Hydrology, Soil Moisture, and Tree Health in Belmont County, Ohio

Bartsch, David
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2005
The Ohio Valley Coal Company (Ohio Valley) has operated the Powhatan No. 6 Mine in Belmont County, Ohio since 1972. Ohio University owns a 455-acre research farm over a portion of the Ohio Valley reserve containing 51 acres of old-growth forest known as Dysart Woods. In 1988, when Ohio Valley applied for a new mining area for its first longwall located several miles away from Dysart Woods, Ohio University claimed that mining at that distance would lower the regional water table and kill the old trees. In response, Ohio Valley began to study potential impacts from longwall mining on hydrology, soil moisture, and tree growth. Early studies examined the impacts of longwall mining on hydrology, soil moisture, and tree growth directly over mined areas compared to woodlots that were not undermined. A subsequent study examined tree-ring growth for a five-year period before and after longwall mining for several woodlots, some directly over panels and others at distances of up to 2000 ft away. No significant differences in growth rate associated with longwall mining were observed. New research was begun that compared longwall-mining impacts on groundwater hydrology, available soil moisture, and tree growth in two stands of mature trees located near Dysart Woods in order to confirm the earlier results. Using a test technique known as "Before-and-After-Controlled-Impact-Pairs," data was collected from one woodlot (test) that was undermined and from another (control) that was not undermined. Data collection began several years prior to longwall mining and has continued for several years after mining. The data for the test site shows that although the shallow and deep groundwater levels were affected by longwall mining, the soil moisture, vigor rating, or the growth rate of trees did not decline significantly compared to the control site where there were hydrologic impacts. The study shows that there are no known significant impacts to trees from longwall mining. The results of these studies were used by Ohio Valley to obtain State approval to longwall to within 300 ft of Dysart Woods
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