Mineral Resources:

Hardrock Mining Reclamation

T-RCED-93-67: Published: Aug 5, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1993.

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GAO discussed the reclamation of federal land disturbed by hardrock mining operations. GAO noted that: (1) in 1988, 11 western states had a total of over 424,000 acres of unreclaimed federal land that had been subject to hardrock mining operations; (2) about 282,000 acres were unreclaimed following abandoned, suspended, or unauthorized mining operations; (3) much of the unreclaimed mining occurred before the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service implemented reclamation regulations; (4) reclamation estimates ranged from about $11 billion for abandoned noncoal mining sites to $32.7 billion to $71.5 billion for abandoned hardrock mining sites; (5) the unreclaimed land presents public safety and wildlife hazards; (6) relatively inexpensive reclamation actions include surface reshaping or recontouring and replacing top soil and vegetation, while more expensive actions involve removing and disposing of toxic mine wastes and controlling erosion and water runoff; (7) BLM has partially implemented a GAO recommendation that it follow the Forest Service's policy of requiring financial guarantees for reclamation; and (8) although the federal government has spent Abandoned Mine Land funds, derived from fees levied on coal producers for reclaiming coal-mining sites, to reclaim non-coal sites, there is currently no federal program or funding sources to ensure reclamation of hardrock mining sites.

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