INTERVIEW with Robert Stonerock, Mineral Resources Inspector, Division of Mineral Resources
What do you do to support sustainable development in Ohio?
Coal and industrial minerals, such as sand, gravel, clay and sandstone are important resources in Ohio that promote economic development; however, if mining operations are not conducted properly, they can degrade the environment. This is why mining companies must develop a mining plan to meet strict regulations before they are issued a permit to mine. I am part of a team that reviews mining plans and I also inspect mining sites after a permit has been issued to insure that a company’s approved plan is followed.
What do you inspect after the mining begins?
I observe activities at the mining pit, removal and proper storage of topsoil, removal of subsoil and rock, called overburden and records of required blasting notices that must be posted in local newspapers. The photograph shows a quarry operation where explosives have loosened rock at the high wall. You can also see that topsoil has been removed from the top of the quarry. It is stored for use when reclaiming the land after the mining is completed. Overburden material has also been taken off the top of the quarry because this material does not contain the mineral resource.
I also inspect sediment ponds that are used to collect, and if necessary, chemically treat water at mining sites prior to its discharge off the permitted areas. I insure that discharge from the ponds meets the effluent limits by taking water samples that I send to a laboratory for analysis.
What happens to mines after resources have been extracted?
The company can reclaim the land for pastureland, cropland, wildlife use or even recreational use. The reclamation may also include reconstructing streams and wetlands and planting trees. I verify that all the required tasks are completed before our division approves the bond release. This is money the coal mining company must set aside in the form of a bond, not to be returned until reclamation is completed. The photographs above show an active mining operation and the same area after it was reclaimed.
What is most challenging about your job?
Accounting for acid mine drainage, or AMD, from coal mining that can pollute stream beds. I identify all AMD sources on a topographic map using a Global Positioning System device called GPS. I also monitor these sources by taking water samples. The photograph shows me taking a GPS reading of acid mine drainage seen at the bottom of the picture. The map shows how I identify where AMD exists by marking a red dot on the area based on a GPS reading. This data collection is time consuming and is a challenge to my time management skills.