Abandoned Mines and the Surrounding Lands
An important part of the Minerals & Geology Management mission is the restoration of land disturbed by historic mining activities.
The National Forests total over 188 million acres of land, mostly in the Western US. In 1995 the USDA Forest Service, using data compiled by the US Bureau of Mines, estimated the number of abandoned mines on National Forest Lands.
There are approximately 38,991 total abandoned mine sites:
13,597 or 34% of the total were mines with records of mineral production. Many involved minerals like arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc which can cause human health and environmental impacts.
1,347 or 3.5% of the total were placer mines which typically cause in various levels of physical disturbance to stream channel, floodplain and riparian environments.
Heritage, Hazards & Habitat
Unlike today, the mining impacts on the environment even 50 years ago were not a serious public concern, nor were they regulated by state or federal law. As a result, along with the legacy of wealth and development, the boom and bust of mineral development left behind thousands of abandoned mines on private and public lands. Today these abandoned mines are a mixed heritage.
The Forest Service in its AML Program seeks to minimize the human health and safety hazards at abandoned mines, while preserving the historic and wildlife habitat resources that they provide.