THE CHARACTERIZATION OF ABANDONED MINES IN NEW MEXICO
In NM, there are tens of thousands of inactive or abandoned mine features in 274 mining districts (including coal, uranium, metals, and industrial minerals). Many of these mine features do not pose any physical or environmental hazard, although some pose a physical hazard, which is easily but costly to remediate. A few of these mine features can pose serious environmental hazards. However, a complete inventory and prioritization for reclamation has not been accomplished in NM.
Many state and federal agencies have mitigated the physical safety hazards by closing these mine features, but very few of these reclamation efforts have examined the long-term environmental effects. There is still potential for environmental effects long after remediation of the physical hazards, as found in several areas in New Mexico (for example Terrero and Questa mines). Some of these observations only come from detailed electron microprobe studies that are not part of a remediation effort.
The objective of our research is to develop a better procedure to inventory and characterize abandoned mine features in NM. Hazard ranking of mine features, using BLM ranking methodology will be utilized for most sites. Also we want to suggest remedial activities that would manage or mitigate dangers to the environment and public health, while taking into consideration historical, cultural and wildlife issues and mineral resource potential.