I didn't see the show but they announced a similar project here in Pennsylvania a few years back.
http://www.fossil.energy.gov/news/techl ... erton.html
At Gilberton, Waste Management and Processors Inc. PTY., LLC will head a team to build and operate a power plant that will produce clean electricity, high-value industrial heat, and nearly 5,000 barrels per day of clean-burning diesel fuel from raw anthracite wastes. At the core of the advanced process will be a coal gasification process that will turn the wastes into a chemically-rich source of gas. A portion of the gas will be converted into diesel while the rest will be combusted to make electricity and steam. Planned for a 75-acre site adjacent to the existing Gilberton Power plant, the $612 million project is the largest of the eight projects selected. The Energy Department's share is proposed at $100 million.
There are many of these waste piles, some have been around for a hundred years. They have been slowly removing some of them where the coal content was sufficient for co-gen plants. It works out nice because they remove the piles and get a return on it. The waste ash is then used to fill the strip mines in.
It's a win-win-win situation. They get energy from what is essentially waste, and the landscape gets returned to a more natural state with the removal of the piles and the filling of the voids...
Actually coal to fuel is not anything new, they have had that or similar technology for years. If my memory serves me correct the Germans actually did that during WW2 or attempted to, I forget which. Guess it never caught on in the commercial sector because the return wasn't enough to justify the expense.