Program helps Montana landowners abate abandoned mines

View of several horse-drawn wagons waiting to fill their haul at the Acme Coal Mine tipple in Coalridge, Montana, circa 1923.

Photo by Edgar Syverud, courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center

Leroy Brenteson was driving a tractor across his fields in eastern Montana nearly 30 years ago when suddenly the ground gave out beneath him.

“There ain’t much to tell. I was driving across the fields, and I fell in,” Brenteson said.

Brenteson, 83, lives on property that his family has owned for generations. He is one of two remaining residents in the former town of Coalridge, so named for a vein of coal that settlers began mining in the early 1900s. He knew there was a mine under his property because he had worked in that very mine for 15 years as part of his family’s business, Acme Coal Mining. He just didn’t expect to fall into it.

“I didn’t drive into a hole; it was under-mined,” Brenteson said.

In the years after the incident, Brenteson has worked with Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality Abandoned Mine Lands program to fill

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