Title: Turn On A Light And Do Your Own Revegetation
Level: Middle School
Time: 4 weeks
KERA Goals: 1.1; 2.1


Background Information:

You flip a light switch and the room brightens with a glow.   It's the electricity delivered to your home that provides the power to light the bulb.  It also provides the energy for your television, refrigerator, washing machine, computer and other machines.  With more than 50% of the electricity in the United States produced by coal-burning power plants, whenever you use electricity, you are causing more coal to be mined.  And whenever coal is mined, the land must be reclaimed because that's the law.

Before the first ton of coal can be mined, reclamation permits must be obtained from various state and federal agencies to ensure that the land will be returned to a beneficial use when mining has been completed.

These permits describe in detail how the coal companies are going to mine and reclaim the land.  Mining processes include vegetation removal, soil removal, rock or other overlying materials (overburden) removal, and coal removal.  Reclaiming processes include putting the broken rock and other materials back in the place where coal was removed (backfilling).   Then, contouring the land surface to resemble the landscape as it looked before mining, soil replacement, topsoil placement, seeding, mulching and fertilizing if necessary.  Certain revegetation standards must also be followed.   (If trees were removed, new trees must be planted.  If there was a pasture or a corn field, these lands have to again support and produce hay or corn.)

A small but important reclamation process is the selection and placement of seeds that will be used to revegetate the disturbed land.  After we use our natural resources, reclaiming the land returns it to other beneficial uses. These uses might include farm or grazing land, wild life areas, forests and parks, or in mountainous areas, just some flat land on which to build a home or a Mall.


Composition of a seed mix often used for reclamation of mine sites in the eastern states can be obtained from:

Public Affairs Office
Office of Surface Mining
1951 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240


  1. Have your students compile a list of things in their home that use electricity.

  2. Plant the seeds in your school playground to see if you can successfully reclaim a disturbed area.  Remember, mines MUST BE successfully reclaimed, it's a law.

  3. Experiment with different amounts/types of water, fertilizer, and soil to provide living examples of what influences plant growth.

  4. Find out where your electricity comes from, and the fuel that is used to produce it.

Provided by the Mineral Information Institute