Landowners: Ask before you build


Landowners in Ohio are experiencing site development problems associated with building on mine land. These problems can lead to expensive repairs or demolition of the building due to total structural failure when settling occurs, landslides develop or mine gases are encountered.

As rural areas are developed for residential and/or recreational purposes, abandoned mine land is becoming more attractive to purchase. Since much of the surface mined areas have been reclaimed, seeded and used for pasture and/or hay ground, many persons do not even realize that it has been stripped.

If it had an underground mine under the area, most times the surface has not been disturbed. The more recently reclaimed mining sites can have unique qualities that call for special design and construction techniques to address the settling of mine spoil, prevention of hillside slippage and overly compacted soil layers.

Belmont County

Due to the fact that Belmont County has more mined land than any other county in Ohio, we have had our share of problems. One family purchased ground that had been stripped, and the seller showed them where the edge of the high wall was.

After they built their home, the back wall of their house began to sink. They found that they had built on the edge of the high wall. The cost to stabilize that wall cost the landowner $84,000. The house was valued at $115,000.

Another home was built on a reclaimed site, only to have the house settle and crack. One of the buildings at the Belmont Correctional Institute cannot be used due to structural failure.

The average cost to stabilize a home site is $1,000 per foot to the bottom of the pit. So if the pit were 90 feet deep, it would add $90,000 to the cost of the house.


Septic systems do not function as well on the compacted ground, so they require additional acreage and/or a more expensive system. Before building on these areas, always consult a trained professional who can provide design advice to avoid problems that can occur as a result of site development on reclaimed land.

Belmont Soil and Water Conservation District has been working with ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources and Division of Mineral Resources to publicize maps on the Belmont County GIS website,, to identify strip mined soils, borrowed areas and areas where soil was stored.


The Abandoned Mine Land Development Guide for landowners, developers and local officials is available from your local soil and water conservation district by contacting ODNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management at 614-265-6901 or on the web at and access Before You Build.


The Abandoned Underground Mine Locator website allows anyone with Internet access to create a map showing the location of the abandoned underground mine in Ohio, If you don’t have Internet, call 614-265-6576.


Abandoned Mine Land problem types from surface and underground mining operations include: dangerous highballs and impoundments, landslides, mine spoil, mine subsidence, mine opening, flooding, mine drainage, mine gas and other mining related.

Active mine sites are defined as areas permitted by the state regulatory authority that have been mined after Aug. 3, 1977, and fall under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) regulations.

Mining is just one consideration when it comes to building a structure, road, pond, dam, or installing a septic system.

For additional information, contact Belmont Soil and Water Conservation, 101 N. Market St., Suite D, St. Clairsville, OH 43950, or 740-526-0027.

Local soil and water conservation districts have soil survey books or the information can be accessed on line. Information concerning soils, well logs and many other resources can be accessed at


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After graduating from Ohio State University, Beverly Riddle taught at Carrollton High School and worked for Jefferson County OSU Extension with the 4-H and Home Economics programs. Her passion for farming and serving on the Jefferson SWCD Board and Ohio SWCD Area 3 Director led her to the Belmont Soil & Water Conservation District where she became Program Administrator in 1999.



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