Poker Flats Restoration in Alaska

In September 2021, Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources determined that Usibelli Coal Mine kept its promise of 40 years: the Poker Flats area near Healy, Alaska, has been successfully restored.

“In successfully achieving Phase III bond release, Usibelli has demonstrated the fundamental strength of our state’s mineral development system,” Commissioner Corri Feige said. “We can develop our land to produce resources to meet the state’s energy and economic needs, then restore the land to provide healthy habitat for people and wildlife, in perpetuity. This iconic Alaska company deserves congratulations on achieving this important milestone.”

Usibelli begins reclamation efforts before mining begins and encompasses a rigorous process that includes backfilling, re-grading, seeding, fertilizing, and planting native trees and shrubs. The Poker Flats area included 10 years of work after Phase II bond release to meet Phase III bond release standards that fully restores both the plant life and wildlife. Approximately 20 million tons of coal was mined from the Poker Flats area from the early 1970s to the 2000s.

“They did a real good job at reclaiming this land,” said Russ Kirkham, a senior DNR geologist and member of the agency’s reclamation inspection team. “Now DNR inspectors won’t go into the area without carrying bear spray. There’s lots of good browse and habitat that attracts moose, bears and other wildlife – pretty soon you’d be hard-pressed to tell there ever was mining here.”