mining

Oklahoma State Capitol
Joseph Novak / Flickr

There’s only about a month left in Oklahoma’s 2015 legislative session, and if bills haven’t made it out of the chamber they started in by now, they’re dead.

Nils Dougan / Flickr.com

Members of the House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee looked into the permitting process for non-coal mining in Oklahoma after attempting legislation last session to change and balance the process.

Lawmakers heard from the Department of Mines on the current application and appeals process before hearing from citizens, who express their concerns with the department’s informal conference process.

Steel Plant, Anshan, Liaoning, China, February 2009.
Sonya Song / Flickr

In May of last year, it looked like impoverished areas of eastern Oklahoma would be getting a lifeline. Coal mining, once a vital industry there, was on a comeback thanks to increasing international demand. The prospect of hundreds of new jobs had people in the area excited when StateImpact first visited Heavener, but things have changed since then.

Gypsum embedded in the landscape at Gloss Mountain State Park in Major County.
Chip Smith / Flickr

Here’s what seems like a mundane factoid about the Sooner State: Oklahoma leads the nation in gypsum mining.

Mildly interesting, right? Actually, it’s fascinating, as The Oklahoman‘s Mike Coppock explains:

The next time you bit down on a Twinkie, know there is a good chance part of it was mined out of a mesa south of Little Sahara State Park.

Nils Dougan / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Department of Mines has been chosen to receive a nearly $108,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mining Safety and Health Administration.

The $107,800 grant was announced Thursday.

The money is to be used to provide federally required training to miners. The grants cover training and retraining of miners working at surface and underground coal and metal and nonmetal mines, including miners engaged in shell dredging or employed at surface stone, sand and gravel mining operations.

A sinkhole near the Tar Creek/Picher Superfund site in Northeast Oklahoma.
Janice Waltzer / Flickr Creative Commons

A Native American tribe in Oklahoma is poised to become the first tribe in the country to lead and manage the cleanup of a federal hazardous waste site.

The Quapaw Tribe is cleaning up a site where a Catholic church and boarding school that tribal members attended once stood. The land was later leased to various companies and mined for lead and zinc. When mining stopped, large piles of leftover mining waste were left behind. This caused health problems for residents.

An active aggregate mining operation near Mill Creek, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

This isn’t the first legislative session some Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for a severance tax for mining limestone and sand, but it’s the first time the idea has gotten this far.

On Monday, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed HB1876, which would allow up to a five percent tax on the production of limestone, sand, and other aggregates. It now moves to the full House for consideration.

Piles of crushed limestone along railroad tracks near Mill Creek, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Last week, StateImpact reported on what the passage of State Question 640 in 1992 did to tax policy in Oklahoma.

“You need to have a supermajority in the House and the Senate and the governor has to sign it,” Alexander Holmes, a Regent’s Professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma, said. “I’m still betting that if you reduce the taxes, you can never make them go up again.”

Leflore County resident Alan Brady says the large berm in the background blocks the view of the mountains he had before mining started.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma and the federal government aren’t getting along.

From health insurance exchanges to power plant emissions, the Obama Administration just can’t seem to get Oklahoma to play ball.

And there’s a lesser-known fight that’s starting to get more attention — over coal mining. More specifically, how land is treated after it’s mined.

There’s a hearing underway in Poteau this week, where attorneys for Farrell-Cooper Mining Company are appealing federal violations at three of its former mines.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Coal mining can cause a lot of damage to the landscape, and the federal government has rules about how mining companies are supposed to treat the land after they’re done with it.

Basically, they’re supposed to return it to approximately what it was like before.

The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is charged with making sure the Oklahoma Department of Mines is enforcing that rule. If the Oklahoma mining regulator doesn’t, the feds can step in and take over that role.