GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 179-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


BERESFORD, Vincent P.1, ZIELSKE, Eric2 and BORUM, Angela2, (1)Bureau of Land Management, Lake Havasu Field Office, 1785 Kiowa Avenue, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403-2847, (2)Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427

Hardrock mining was a large driving factor in westward expansion throughout the United States. While riches were extracted from mountainsides and riverbeds, boom towns were constructed and left behind as quickly as prospectors could find new deposits elsewhere. Mining activity left behind infrastructure and development that still remains on public lands today. Without any reclamation standards in place, mines were left, posing a risk to the environment and to those who utilize public lands. Many abandoned mines have no current claimant of record or viable potentially responsible party, which leaves the remediation up to the land managers. The Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program was established to address these sites where mining activity has ceased before the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) surface management standards were enacted (January 1, 1981). Abandoned mine lands are those lands, waters, and surrounding watersheds contaminated by the extraction of coal, ore, and hardrock minerals. Environmental concerns can include water quality issues (e.g., acid-mine drainage and impacts to drinking water supplies) and soil contamination. Physical safety hazards in these mines can include unstable infrastructure, lack of oxygen, hydrogen sulfide gas, unexploded ordnance, and open pits and shafts. Abandoned mines can also provide valuable habitat for native wildlife and keystone species offering shelter and water to local wildlife. Abandoned mines offer stable temperatures that are ideal for specific species of bats and amphibians. Mines also contain significant historical resources that offer a snapshot into the history of early mining and historic settlement life, which makes them attractive to learn about and visit. Many federal land management agencies address AML concerns in a variety of ways with the help of interdisciplinary teams, state agencies, and non-profit partnerships. Assistance is also provided by local university programs and volunteers. There are many ways to experience these sites on public lands while staying safe. BLM’s AML program focuses on reclaiming the physical safety and environmental impacts by applying a risk-based criteria and watershed approach to establish project priorities. The program works to return public lands impacted by past mining activity to productive use(s).