U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division
Characterization, Cleanup, and Revitalization of Mining Sites

This website provides site managers, regulatory agencies, consultants, and the general public with information on technologies and resources related to the assessment, characterization, cleanup, and revitalization of current and former (active, closed, and abandoned1) mining sites.

 

  • A Call for Abstracts has been issued for the Western Edition 2016 Design and Construction Issues at Hazardous Waste Sites Symposium to be held October 26-27 in Denver, Colorado.

    Abstracts are due on Friday August 26. They should be submitted electronically to: DCHWS-West@cdmsmith.com.

    Suggested Abstract Topics: This will be a 2-day event consisting of three panel sessions. While all relevant topics will be considered, the symposium is particularly focused on the following areas:

    • Design and construction issues and challenges associated with addressing hardrock mining sites;
    • Cleanup approaches and challenges associated with remediating large watersheds with contaminated sediments and/or surface water;
    • Remediation experiences and challenges associated with addressing hazardous waste contamination in residential/high traffic environments; and
    • Experiences and challenges executing adaptive site management strategies at hazardous waste sites in the western United States
  • Research Brief 259, "Phytostabilization of Mine Tailings with Compost-Assisted Direct Planting," is now available from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Superfund Research Program. According to research from the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program Center, amending mine waste with compost is a viable and promising alternative to the expensive process of covering an entire site with a thick soil or rock cap followed by seeding. The trial was based on successful results from preliminary greenhouse studies, which scaled effectively to the field.
  • EPA awarded $465,000 to Navajo Nation for water monitoring in the San Jan River. Monitoring will include sediment sampling and a fish tissue contaminant study to focus on potential human health risks associated with fish consumption, following the Gold King Mine Release.

Overview

EPA regulates three general categories of mining activities: hardrock mining, non-metals mining, and coal mining. Regulation of the mining sector involves every major EPA program. For example, EPA's EPA's Abandoned Mine Lands Program handles issues related to management of mineral processing wastes, while EPA Regional offices use statutory authority granted by the Clean Water Act to regulate coal, hardrock and non-metals mining activities through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits program. The EPA Superfund Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program identifies ways to protect human health and the environment using regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to address contamination at abandoned mine sites. This may include Superfund remediation, voluntary cleanups, emergency responses, and cleanups leading to redevelopment and land revitalization. To coordinate the risk reduction and cleanup of abandoned mine lands, the AML Program works directly with other federal agencies, tribes, states, communities, and mine operators on research, characterization, cleanup, and redevelopment-related activities. The AML Program is coordinated through EPA's National Mining Team and Abandoned Mine Lands Team, which together serve as a focal point for coordinating and facilitating national technical, policy and process issues with stakeholders on abandoned/inactive mine research, characterization, cleanup and redevelopment activities.

Other federal government agencies involved in the management of mining sites include the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) (Mineral Materials Program and Abandoned Mine Lands Program), the U.S. Forest Service (Minerals and Geology Management), the National Park Service (NPS) (Mining Operations Management and Abandoned Mineral Lands Program), and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) (coal mine regulation and abandoned mine land reclamation). Federal agencies also have access to the Superfund program for removal or remedial actions. The Superfund program can be used when a significant environmental or public health threat is imminent, or where a site poses an environmental threat and no potentially responsible party can be found. Because ownership of lands on which mining sites exist ranges widely, management of these sites is a complex issue. State mining agency websites may contain more in-depth information on the number of mining sites and the total area they occupy within individual states. Links to state mining programs can be found through the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration resource area.

1 Information on the types of abandoned mining sites that exist across the United States and site ownership issues can be found through the U.S. Government's Abandoned Mine Lands Portal.

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