Abandoned mines can present physical hazards (open shafts) as well as chemical (environmental) hazards (toxic chemicals contaminating water source).
In addition, another perspective on abandoned mines is their conservation. Preserving abandoned mines for their potential to generate money as a tourist destination and for their use by wildlife as a habitat is a sustainable use of abandoned mines.
Many abandoned mines have significant historical value and should be protected from destruction, vandalism and theft. It is a crime to remove metal or other cultural resources from abandoned mines.
The Colorado AML program addresses two issues relating to abandoned mine sites: 1) environmental impacts, and 2) hazardous mine openings. The AML program has inventoried more than 2,800 hard rock abandoned mines with over 10,000 hazardous openings on public lands administered by BLM.
Environmental impacts from AML sites are being addressed at the watershed level. Colorado BLM has identified three high priority watersheds: the upper Animas River, the Lake Fork of the Arkansas and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison. Each watershed uses a risk-based approach to select sites for cleanup.
BLM has closed more than 1,400 hazardous mine openings. Future mine closures to address the remaining 8,600 openings will be focused on areas with high public use.
For more information on the AML program, please visit the BLM National Abandoned Mine Lands site. For more specific Colorado information, download Colorado's abandoned Mine Land Workplan for Fiscal Year 2007-2013 .