Erosion at an abandoned mine in Pound. Courtesy of Virginia Department of Energy.

Erosion from an abandoned coal mine is threatening several homes in Pound in Wise County, according to the Virginia Department of Energy, which has hired contractors to clear out the debris.

The area was an active surface mine in the early 1960s and materials from the operation were not placed back properly to prevent erosion, the department said in a statement. Over time, that material started sliding and water from that site, as well as from a nearby historic underground mine, caused the material to move more, taking trees down with it. Those trees threatened homes, power supply and road access.

The department’s Abandoned Mine Land team deemed the site an emergency so removal of those trees could begin right away, the release said. Nearly 3 acres of trees will be cut to not only protect those around them, but to also reduce the weight and stress on the landslide to prevent any further movement.

“We knew we had to act fast on this abandoned mine land hazard. Our team sprang into action getting contractors on site to get these trees out of the way,” said Abandoned Mine Land Project Coordinator Lesa Baker in a statement. “Once the project is completed the water from the old deep mine will be diverted in hopes of preventing any more material or water from moving downhill.”

The project will cost $52,745 to complete and Mcfall Excavating Inc. is on scene to reclaim the site. The Abandoned Mine Land team will return to the site once this project is complete to reclaim the slide.

Virginia Energy’s Abandoned Mine Land program was established after the passing of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act in 1977. The agency manages a federal grant to reclaim issues caused by coal mining that occurred before that date. Grant funds come from fees paid by the coal industry on each ton of coal mined.

On Oct. 1, The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) became Virginia Energy. The Abandoned Mine Land program now falls under the Mined Land Repurposing program within Virginia Energy.