August 4, 2020 – Abandoned Mines Can Cause Environmental and Safety Risks. There are an estimated 47,000 abandoned mines spread throughout every county of California. Many of these mines present threats to the environment–including water quality, fish and wildlife, soils, and air quality–and the physical safety of individuals.
Key Challenges to Remediating Abandoned Mines. This report discusses some of the key challenges associated with systematically remediating abandoned mines. In particular, the report highlights how current responsibilities to inventory, assess, and remediate abandoned mines are spread across a large number of state, federal, and private agencies and landowners, which complicates current efforts to prioritize and implement projects. In addition, the cost of remediation–particularly for projects causing environmental damages–can be high. The total cost to remediate all mines causing environmental or physical safety threats is likely to be billions of dollars. However, the funding to remediate these projects is limited, spread across multiple agencies, and often has to compete with other types of environmental cleanup work.
Recommendations to Increase the Pace of Remediation. The report includes three sets of recommendations to support increased remediation of abandoned mines. First, we recommend that a single state entity be designated as the lead agency to facilitate consistent, ongoing coordination of the state’s planning and prioritization efforts. Second, we recommend that this lead agency develop a statewide strategic plan that would better ensure that limited resources are directed to the most critical projects. Third, we recommend that a new fund be created to support abandoned mine remediation. This fund could be supported by state and federal dollars–including, for example, if federal stimulus funding were approved as occurred during the last recession–and could improve transparency of what resources are available for remediation of abandoned mines.