Abandoned Mine Land Current Activities and Initiatives
In Oregon and Washington, the highest priority for remediation is given to sites on BLM land that are impacting water quality or endangering human life. Additional priorities include establishing partnerships with other state and federal agencies, identifying viable responsible parties, and minimizing the need for long-term remediation and monitoring. Priority sites that pose a risk to human health and the environment include:
- Metal-laden acidic drainage from mine openings and waste dumps
- Toxic mine tailings near recreation areas, or easily accessible by the public
- Mine tailings in stream channel
- Open shafts and adits accessible to the public and wildlife
Watersheds were prioritized on the basis of assessment undertaken by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Washington Department of Ecology. Criteria included 303(d) water quality limited streams and presence of threatened or endangered plants and animals.
Priority Sites and Initiatives
In Oregon/Washington, the remediation work at the Cleveland and Kaaba/Texas sites is completed or nearly completed. At the sites of the former Formosa Mine, Almeda Mine, Bretz Mine, Josephine Mine, Poorman/Balm Creek workings, and Umpqua AML, site remediation is underway.
See the clickable map for completed and current priority watershed AML project locations.
Remediation of AML Physical Hazards
Sites containing physical hazards are prioritized for remediation based on their proximity to populations or recreation areas, public access, and degree of danger. Remediation at key sites is guided by focused inventory assessments starting with those site clusters in closest proximity to areas with high public exposure. The number of sites remediated each year will depend on available funding and staff to complete the work. BLM in Oregon and Washington currently has an inventory of over 500 known abandoned hardrock mines on public lands. Over 200 listed in inventories have been identified as possibly having physical safety hazards.
Developing accurate District AML inventories are a priority. This will allow us to identify potential safety and environmental hazards and determine where future funding will be directed. We estimate there may be over 1,000 AML sites on BLM land in OR/WA that have not been properly evaluated for physical and environmental hazards. An inventory is currently underway in the Medford district that has to date identified 176 AML sites with potential physical and environmental issues. Vale and Spokane districts need additional inventory work to evaluate abandoned mine features. Washington State Department of Ecology evaluates mine sites and BLM is cooperating with them on these assessments. EPA Region 10 is in the process of centralizing existing information on abandoned mine sites from federal and state agencies, and BLM has participated in this effort.
The BLM Oregon/Washington energy team is working with several companies and consortiums on potential geothermal power plant developments at old AML sites in Central Oregon. Proposals are in the early stages of development.