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Second Annual State Reclamation Award (1998)

Robert E. Coffin honored for concurrent reclamation of mining - farming operation.

Robert E. Coffin, Inc. has been selected as the 1998 recipient of the annual New York State Mined Land Reclamation Award. The company was selected for outstanding reclamation of its Coffin Farm Pit #1 in Sandy Creek, Oswego County.

Mining at this site began prior to New York State's enactment of its Mined Land Reclamation Law in 1975. In 1992, Mr. Coffin received a permit to expand the mine size to its ultimate permitted limit of 32 acres. Mr. Coffin's land use objective had always been to return the mined land to agricultural use. The approved reclamation method was to provide basic grading, topsoil replacement and application of agricultural lime and manure to achieve a revegetation result.

Mr. Coffin reclaimed the site in five-acre sections each year since 1992, returning the mined land back to productive agricultural land on the 160 acre farm operation. The reclamation effort exceeded the minimum required by regulation. His reclamation method was based on restoring full agricultural productivity to the land. Following soil testing done at Cornell University and at commercial Agronomic laboratories, Mr. Coffin determined the appropriate application rates for soil amendments. Four thousand pounds of agricultural lime and three hundred sixty pounds of 12-24-24 commercial fertilizers were applied per acre. Oats were planted and then over-seeded with a mixture of timothy and clover. The crops were then managed through the two-year reclamation period by harvesting the oats in year one followed by a second application of 360 pounds of 12-24-24 fertilizer per acre and harvesting the permanent hay crop in year two when full yield was achieved. Livestock was fenced out of the areas under reclamation. The crops are used to feed sixty head of Charolais and Angus beef cattle currently raised on the farm. All active mining has now ceased, and reclamation will be fully completed with removal of one stockpile of sand and final grading of the pond area that will be utilized to provide water for the livestock.

New York State reclamation standards require 75% plant growth or a failure rate not to exceed one-half acre in every two reclaimed. Mr. Coffins' efforts and nutrient regime exceeded the minimum required to achieve this and have produced 100% plant growth. In addition, the plant growth is very heavy with high plant density, excellent plant vigor, and a high biomass per acre. The extraordinary reclamation effort has again produced a former mine site that has been returned to a condition with a land value that equals or exceeds the land value prior to mining. This is an excellent example of concurrent reclamation that is encouraged by the Division of Mineral Resources.

The reclaimed land provides economic value to the farm producing crops that are needed for livestock feed for the farming operation. Mining was done in a manner that avoided ecologically sensitive areas of the farm, and diverse habitats have been preserved. Reclamation was enhanced by the addition of several bee hives for honey production and to augment and ensure an increased pollination rate for the area's ecology.

The mine area of this farm has been reclaimed in a manner that has preserved the nature of the property as a small agricultural enterprise. This area of northern Oswego County is bounded by Lake Ontario and is predominantly dairy farming operations. There are also farms that derive their major source of income from raising tree fruits, primarily apples. The Coffin farm fits in well with this surrounding and requires less intensive management than these other types of agricultural enterprises.

Many other states have programs to recognize outstanding reclamation efforts. One of DEC'S goals in establishing this award is to encourage the industry to continue reclamation efforts by recognizing superior initiatives above and beyond the minimum requirements of the law.

New York State officials also nominated Robert Coffin Inc. for the annual Interstate Mining Compact Commission Award. The project received a Certificate of Honorable Mention at the annual meeting in Asheville, North Carolina.

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