EarthFax was awarded an EcoLinks Challenge Grant through the U.S. Agency for International Development to study alternatives for reducing, controlling, and recycling waste rock at a coal mine located on Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East. The coal mine, operating since 1913, had been generating but not controlling various waste streams related to coal mine operations. Over the 90 years of operation, the mine had generated over 4 million cubic meters of waste rock. The relatively high BTU content of this waste rock suggested that the material could be efficiently recycled and used in the town boiler. This would reduce the potential for spontaneous combustion of the waste rock and provide a cost-effective alternative for providing feed stock to the boiler.
Specific tasks performed by EarthFax on this project included evaluating alternatives for minimizing environmental pollution resulting from existing mine waste dumps and increasing opportunities to recycle this waste; selecting alternatives and developing a model program to control and beneficially reuse solid wastes generated by the mine; and preparing a project report that outlined the feasibility of solid-waste control and recycling at the facility. In addition to these objectives, EarthFax evaluated alternative underground mining methods to minimize the production of waste rock and evaluated the coal burning efficiency of the town boiler to minimize ash production.
This project was subsequently designated by the Eurasian-American Partnership for Environmentally Sustainable Economies as a Best Practice. The citation indicated that the project demonstrated "environmentally sound and economically efficient solutions to environmental problems in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia."