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December 16, 2009
In Reply Refer To:
3809/3720 (320) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2010-045
Expires: 09/30/2011
To:                   All Field Office Officials
From:               Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management
Subject:           Guidance for the Mitigation of Abandoned Mine Hazards on Active Mining Claims
Program Area:  Surface Management and Abandoned Mine Lands (AML).
Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) informs field office personnel of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) responsibility and authority for mitigation of abandoned mine hazards on active mining claims and establishes the proper procedure to determine claimant responsibility. 
Policy/Action:  The Office of Inspector General (OIG) made three recommendations in Audit Report No. C-IN-BLM-0011-2008, “Bureau of Land Management - Mining Claimant Administration,” regarding the mitigation of abandoned mine hazards on active mining claims. Recommendations 1 and 3 are addressed within this memorandum as follows: 
  1. Inform field staff of the scope of BLM’s authority to ensure that abandoned mine hazards on mining claims are mitigated. 
Pursuant to Section 302(b) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the BLM is required “by regulation or otherwise, [to] take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the [public] lands” (43 U.S.C. § 1732(b)). The BLM’s surface management regulations governing mining on public lands at 43 CFR subpart 3809 implement the statutory mandate. Therefore, the BLM, on its own or with partner organizations where appropriate, will continue efforts to mitigate abandoned mine hazards on active mining claims. 
When the BLM field personnel have determined that a mine working/hazard/feature poses an imminent threat to public health and the environment, the BLM field personnel will make a reasonable effort to inform known mining claimants at a site of any planned mitigation before the mitigation effort begins.   Following such notice, the BLM field personnel will proceed with
mitigation of an abandoned mine hazard/working/feature on an active mining claim unless a mining claimant has protested or otherwise attempted to prevent the BLM’s proposed mitigation efforts. 
If the mining claimant protests or takes other action to prevent the BLM’s proposed mitigation actions with respect to the abandoned mine hazard, the mining claimant will become responsible for maintaining that mine opening or other hazard/working/feature in a safe and secure condition. After a mining claimant has asserted opposition to the BLM mitigation, the BLM will initiate efforts for the mining claimant to accept financial responsibility for site maintenance, including protection of public health and the environment. The BLM will regulate these sites as “activities exceeding casual use,” and the mining claimants will be required to comply with surface management regulations at 43 CFR 3809.10. 
When a mining claimant has protested or attempted to prevent proposed mitigation efforts, the mining claimant will be required to submit an approved financial guarantee in accordance with the requirements of 43 CFR 3809.500 – 3809.599 to cover the mitigation needs of the working mine. The claimant will be responsible for any hazards at the site in compliance with the surface management regulations. Specific policy and procedural guidance for determining the mining claimant’s interests in a potentially hazardous working mine are given in Attachment 1, AML Program Guidelines for Determining Claimant Interest in a Potentially Hazardous Mine Working.  A sample posting is provided in Attachment 2.    
If the mining claimant has either refused or otherwise failed to take mitigation action promptly to protect public health and the environment, the BLM must undertake the necessary mitigation actions in accordance with the guidelines set forth in Chapter 9 of H-3720-1, Abandoned Mine Lands Program Policy Handbook. These mitigation actions must be taken to protect public health and the environment from immediate threat during the resolution of any protests from the mining claimant. Depending upon the resolution of the protests, either the mining claimant or the BLM will complete mitigation of the mining hazard.  

3.      Maximize the use of cooperative agreements with states to mitigate abandoned mine hazards on active mining claims, particularly those that have mine site mitigation enforcement laws as do Nevada and Arizona.

Abandoned Mine Land and Surface Management lead staff members are reminded and encouraged to utilize existing cooperative agreements with state agencies, when practical, to coordinate mitigation of abandoned mine land hazards. These cooperative agreements, describing the roles and responsibilities of each organization, have been used successfully to streamline mitigation and reduce associated costs. States without cooperative agreements are encouraged to meet with their respective state agencies to study the feasibility of such an agreement, and if practical and feasible, to implement them in a timely manner. 
To determine the effectiveness of these agreements, each Abandoned Mine Lands state office lead is responsible to review the current state of its cooperative agreement and provide a report to the Division of Environmental Quality (WO-280). The report must detail the status of BLM’s cooperative agreement and include a copy of the formal AML agreement, a description of the program, a list of accomplishments, a review of the effectiveness of the agreement, and any recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the agreement. For states offices that do not have a cooperative agreement, the report to WO-280 must describe what actions have been made to initiate an agreement and include an action plan to initiate such an agreement. This report is due by April 30, 2010.               
Timeframe:   Effective immediately.
Budget Impact:  Financial and labor resources may be minimally impacted due to a minor increase in financial guarantee and surface management (3809) filings.
Background:  The BLM’s Abandoned Mine Land program is responsible for inventorying and mitigating abandoned mine hazards on BLM administered public lands.  In May 2009, the OIG published Audit Report No. C-IN-BLM-0011-2008, entitled “Bureau of Land Management- Mining Claimant Administration.” The OIG report contained three recommended actions to be taken by the BLM. Two of these recommendations are addressed by this memorandum, and the remaining OIG recommendation will be addressed by forthcoming policy and guidance.  
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  No manuals or handbooks are affected.
Coordination:  This IM was coordinated with the Solicitor’s Office and the Division of Environmental Quality.
Contact:  If you have any questions concerning the content of this IM, please contact me at 202-208-4201, or your staff may contact Adam Merrill, Solid Minerals Division (W0-320), at 202-912-7044 or email Adam_Merrill@blm.gov, or Erinn Shirley, Environmental, Quality, and Protection Division (WO-280), at 202-912-7132 or email Erinn_Shirley@blm.gov.
Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
Michael Nedd                                                               Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                                        Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Minerals and Realty Management
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Last updated: 01-08-2010