Coal surface reclamation at the York Canyon complex, Colfax County, New Mexico
— Paul M. Boden, Robert J. Garcia, and Mark T. Murphy


The State of New Mexico, Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, has approval and oversight authority for coal-surface mining reclamation plans within the York Canyon region of northcentral New Mexico. These plans comprise geomorphic and environmental elements of great complexity. Regional drainage is dominated by canyons deeply incised into shallow-dipping, coal-bearing sandstones and shales of Late Cretaceous to early Tertiary age. The biotic communities vary between pinyon/juniper, grassy bottom land, and Ponderosa pine/savanna habitats. The reclamation plan is keyed to an approved post-mining land use, in this case, wildlife habitat and domestic livestock grading. Revegetation, regrading and drainage reconstruction success will be measured in relation to this final goal.

Several problems are present at York Canyon which are generic to reclamation engineering in the arid Southwest. In the West Ridge part of the mining complex, several small sub-watersheds will be impacted by mining. These areas are not environmentally permissive of large-scale surface-water diversion structures. An alternative operation has been approved under NM rule 80-1, "Best Technology Currently Available (BTCA)." Data are being collected from this operation to evaluate the success of the effort and expand our understanding of alternate sediment control. The Department is also attempting, under recent Coal Surface Mining Commission revisions to Rule 80-1, to gather data on rill and gully erosion as a function of slope stability. Initial results of these two investigations are not yet conclusive; however, they do indicate that York Canyon is an excellent candidate for this kind of study and that the geomorphic variables of landscape stability are interactive and

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Recommended Citation:

  1. Boden, Paul M.; Garcia, Robert J.; Murphy, Mark T., 1990, Coal surface reclamation at the York Canyon complex, Colfax County, New Mexico, in: Tectonic development of the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico, Bauer, Paul W.; Lucas, Spencer G.; Mawer, Christopher K.; McIntosh, William C., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 41st Field Conference, pp. 445-450.

[see guidebook]