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Evan Jones Coal Mine

Jonesville Surface Burning - Multiple Phases for Maximum Benefits

The abandoned Evan Jones Coal Mine site was once the home of several hundred people. The coal spoils from the mine’s washplant covered about fifty-seven acres and had been burning near the surface and down to the native ground level (up to 70 feet below the surface) for decades. Forest fires around the periphery of the piles had been started from this ignition source in the past as well as recreational users encountering noxious fumes emanating from fissures in the surface. As a Minimum Program State Alaska did the mitigation in phases consistent with grant support amounts through the Office of Surface mining.

The first phase took on the area nearest Slipper Lake. This was the first effort in Alaska of doing surface burning mitigation and we used ideas from several other States to plan the work. Many lessons were learned and some mistakes were made. Perhaps the biggest problem that was left after this phase was a large pile of material left covering the area adjacent to the Lake where people had traditionally camped. This was a sore point with both the local community and recreational users visiting the site. In the above early spring photo (Figure 1) you can still see ice covering the lake. The area that would become Phase II is at the top of the photo and the area that still awaits action as Phase III is to the right side. The light colored vertical line between Phase I and Phase III is an underground firebreak (Figure 2) of rock that keeps fire from migrating between the areas.

Figure 1

Aerial View of Phase I - Jonesville Fire.

Figure 2

View of the underground firebreak being installed.

Figure 3

View of Phase II showing the extent of the earthwork required.

Phase II involved the most substantial depths encountered in the overall project area. Whereas the approach to the original phase was to specify the method of mitigation the contract for Phase II was designed around results. The contractor could determine how to achieve the results mandated in the contract. This saved substantial costs and allowed for a much speedier project. The local community and recreational users alike benefited from the compressed time of disruption of use, not to mention the lower odor intrusion on surrounding homeowners! The problems identified by the local community were all taken into consideration during the planning and implementation of this contract phase.

In Phase I there had been no attempts at revegetation so in Phase II the organic material was salvaged prior to the start of the project and used to cover steeper areas of the final grades (Figure 3, Figure 4). Those areas were seeded with a grass mixture designed specifically for the site by the Alaska Division of Agriculture’s Plant Materials center using native species (Figure 5, Figure 6).

Figure 4

View of A D-8 at work on Phase II. Later joined by a D-10 crawler.

Figure 5

The native grass mix quickly established itself well.

Figure 6

A sprouting willow cutting bundle can be seen in the center of this photo.

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Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 12/22/16

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