The Powell River Project is a public-private research and outreach partnership between Virginia Tech, other educational institutions and environmental organizations, and natural resource industries, serving the southwest Virginia coalfield region. It was founded in 1980 and is the longest-running program of its kind in the USA.
Research funded by the Powell River Project has focused on developing practical, cost-effective solutions to natural resource problems in central Appalachian coal mining areas. Research areas have included mine soil construction and development, mined land reforestation, coal refuse revegetation, management of coal-related residual products, water resource management and protection, and many other related topics.
The results of these research projects have had a major influence on mine reclamation, mined land reclamation, and post-mining management practices throughout the Appalachian coalfields. Powell River Project researchers have generated many outreach publications that describe research-based reclamation practices, through both the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative.
The Powell River Project Research and Education Center, in Wise County, Virginia, is among the leading facilities for mining-related research and education programs in the world, and has had over 500,000 visitors since 1980. This 1100-acre center, owned by the former Penn-Virginia Resources Partners LLC (now a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners), hosts long-term research sites and field-based education programs as well as active coal mining, gas and timber production, and former mines.