California Abandoned Mine Lands Program

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) California manages 15.2 million acres of public lands, nearly 15% of the State's land area. The Bureau also administers over 47 million acres of subsurface mineral estate underlying Federal surface land, 2.5 million acres underlying privately owned land, 592,000 acres of Native American tribal land where BLM has trust responsibility for mineral operations. BLM California also manages 1.6 million acres in northeastern Nevada. The lands managed by the BLM are consistent with the principle of “multiple use” which consists of but, not limited to, cattle grazing, wild horses, recreation, wildlife habitat, and mining. 

The Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program supports the BLM’s core programs by mitigating physical safety risks at AML sites on or affecting lands administered by the BLM, and providing solutions to degraded water quality and other environmental impacts. It supports the mission of public lands conservation and water quality reclamation through partnerships with government and non-governmental organizations.

The AML program addresses AML sites that were abandoned prior to January 1, 1981, the effective date of the BLM’s surface management regulations (43 CFR 3809) which implement the “unnecessary or undue degradation” provision of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended (43 U.S.C. 1700, et seq.).  

Since the discovery of gold in 1848, California has been plagued with the issue of abandoned mines.  It is estimated that California has approximately 47,000 AML sites.  Of that, 31,490 are located on Federal land.  It is estimated that BLM has 24,400 sites that contain 85,400 features.  Of the 24,400 AML sites located on BLM-managed land in California, 84% of the sites present physical safety hazards (20,740) and 11% of the sites present environmental safety hazards (2,684).