Abandoned Hardrock Mines: Information on Number of Mines, Expenditures, and Factors That Limit Efforts to Address Hazards, Report to the Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate   [open pdf - 2MB]

From the GAO [Government Accountability Office] Highlights: "The General Mining Act of 1872 allowed individuals to obtain exclusive rights to valuable hardrock mineral deposits on land belonging to the United States. Miners explored, mined, and processed valuable minerals, but many did not reclaim the land after their operations ended. Unsecured mine tunnels, toxic waste piles, and other hazards--known as mine features--are found at abandoned hardrock mines across federal and nonfederal lands. The Forest Service, BLM [Bureau of Land Management], National Park Service, EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], and OSMRE [Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement]--as well as state agencies--administer programs that identify and address hazardous features at abandoned hardrock mines. Addressing features could include, for example, sealing mine tunnels or treating contaminated water. GAO was asked to provide information about abandoned hardrock mines. This report describes (1) what is known about the number of abandoned hardrock mines in the United States; (2) agency spending to address abandoned hardrock mines from fiscal years 2008 through 2017 and estimated future costs; and (3) factors that limit federal and state agencies' and stakeholders' efforts to address abandoned mines. GAO obtained and summarized information from agency databases about the number of abandoned mines, features, and hazards as of 2019; summarized agency spending data from fiscal years 2008 through 2017, the most currently available; and interviewed federal and state agency officials and stakeholders, selected to provide diverse perspectives."

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Government Accountability Office: https://www.gao.gov/
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