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$10 milllion pilot federal program will fund a host of economic development in southwest Virginia

If ever there were a time to turn an abandoned mine into flourishing economic center for business, tourism and more, the time is now. Governor Ralph Northam has announced a pilot economic development grant program for Southwest Virginia that includes a $10 million infusion of federal money. The grants are part of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program and are destined for projects that are designed to both reclaim abandoned mine lands and boost the Southwest Virginia economy.

According to a news release from the Governor’s Office, Virginia is one of six states selected to administer this pilot program. The projects selected in 2017 included funding for outdoor recreation, tourism assets, and development of industrial sites. The grant comes from the Power Plus Pilot Program, which was part of the federal Omnibus Funding Bill passed in May.

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) will administer the program. Project applications are to include both the reclamation of historic mining features and economic development strategies. Areas of focus include infrastructure improvement for new industrial sites, broadband access, clean energy development, tourism, and agriculture.

The news release quoted the governor as saying, “This program provides the Commonwealth a tremendous win-win to improve our natural environment and to generate exciting economic development opportunities in Southwest Virginia. The possibilities are endless when it comes to reclaiming the thousands of historic mining features across the region, and I look forward to seeing the innovative plans that Virginia’s selection to participate in this pilot program will yield.”

“The Commonwealth has reclaimed abandoned mine lands for decades,” said DMME Director John Warren. “Traditionally, we have only had funding to reclaim features that addressed safety or environmental concerns. These federal dollars give us the opportunity to expand the program to provide additional economic benefits to the coalfield region.”

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