Kentucky Geological Survey Report of Investigations


By the year 2010, the Star Fire mining operation in Knott, Breathitt, and Perry Counties in eastern Kentucky, which uses mountaintop-removal and hollow-fill mining techniques, will have created approximately 5,000 acres of gently rolling terrain that could support alternative land uses. The present research is centered on approximately 1,000 acres of spoil created since mining began in 1981. An aquifer fed by both ground and surface water will be created within the spoil. Spoil-handling techniques such as cast blasting, dragline placement, end dumping by trucks, and surface grading have created porous coarse-rock zones within the spoil through which ground water can move. A vertical rubble chimney in the spoil has been constructed of durable rock to enhance infiltration to the ground-water reservoir through a surface infiltration basin.

Fourteen monitoring wells have been installed along with flumes to gage surface-water discharge and monitor water quantity and quality at the site. Dye-tracing studies have identified ground-water flow paths and flow velocities. A preliminary assessment of the water resources at the site indicates that a stable water table has been created at the mined site. Based on an average saturated thickness of 21 feet for the entire site and an estimated porosity of 20 percent, the spoil stores approximately 4,200 acre-feet (1.37 billion gallons) of water.

Dye-tracing data, hydraulic gradients, and water-quality data indicate that ground water moves more slowly in the spoil's interior; from there it flows down into the hollow fills before discharging as springs along the bottom of the spoil. The springs discharge approximately 1 million gallons per day under normal flow conditions, and discharges of approximately 5 million gallons per day have been measured a week after rainfall events.

Publication Date



Series XI

Report Number

Report of Investigations 6

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Funds for this project were provided by Cyprus Southern Realty, a division of Cyprus Minerals, Inc.; the Kentucky Department of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, in cooperation with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement; and Kentucky Geological Survey funds allocated for water resources.