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Characterization, Cleanup, and Revitalization of Mining Sites


Click on the items below to access reports, papers, and website links that provide further information on the topics of Characterization and Remediation, Mine Pools, Revitalization and Redevelopment, Radioactive Materials as well as General Information related to mining sites.

General Information

  • Abandoned Mine Lands Portal. The Abandoned Mine Lands Portal is a partnership that spans federal, state and local efforts and is dedicated to raising awareness about abandoned mine lands.
  • EPA Abandoned Mine Lands Program. This website identifies EPA resources related to the range of environmental risks and challenges from abandoned mine lands, as well as risk management approaches.
  • The Global Acid Rock Drainage Guide. The International Network for Acid Prevention (INAP) and the Global Alliance have consolidated available scientific and guidance to develop the GARD Guide as a practical reference on best practices in minimizing the impacts of acid rock drainage (ARD) from mining sites. Designed primarily for a scientist or engineer with a reasonable background in chemistry and the basics of mining but with little specific knowledge of ARD, this compendium of the concepts, techniques, and processes has been prepared as a road map through the process of evaluating, planning, design, and management of ARD over the lifecycle of mining. The guide also provides references to identify more detailed information for those seeking specifics on ARD technologies and approaches. Initiated in 2009, the GARD Guide is still a work in progress. The GARD website provides for reader input, and all comments are welcome.
  • Global Review of Pit Lake Case Studies.Adobe PDF Logo The use of pit lakes for long-term containment of tailings and mine waste is recognized as best practice by the mine closure community in many jurisdictions and in global guidance documents. Various sectors of the mining industry consider water-capped, in-pit mine waste disposal to be a best practice in terms of geotechnical stability, geochemical stability, and protection of regional aquifers (either by directing contaminated groundwater to the pit or by engineering a preferential pathway around the pit to minimize contact with mine waste). Presented in this report are 12 examples of successful pit lakes (6 of which were used to sequester tailings and/or mine wastes), 16 examples of pit lakes that are being extensively managed toward success (14 of which were used to sequester tailings and/or mine wastes), and 5 unsuccessful pit lakes (all of which were used to sequester tailings and/or mine wastes). See also 29 illustrating slides from the 2018 British Columbia MEND Metal Leaching/Acid Rock Drainage WorkshopAdobe PDF Logo
  • Hydrogeologic Properties of Earth Materials and Principles of Groundwater Flow.Adobe PDF Logo This book emphasizes the need for groundwater scientists to have a solid understanding of the occurrence and behavior of groundwater in a variety of conditions and settings. Knowledge of how porous media store, yield, and transmit water, and the factors that control groundwater flow rates and directions are highlighted. Eight Boxes present more detailed discussion of concepts introduced in the main text. Sixteen exercises and their solutions are also provided.
  • Hydrogeology and Mineral Resource Development.Adobe PDF Logo The hydrogeological setting of a mineral resource development project is often a central component in mine planning, safe mine operations and sound environmental stewardship. This book illustrates many of the considerations involved in and methodologies applied when assessing the impacts of groundwater on mine operations, on mine water supply, on mineral waste management and in closure of a mine site following resource depletion. In most countries, strict regulation is in place that recognizes the need for management controls to minimize impacts on groundwater systems and nearby surface water flows. This book discusses the principles of hydrogeology that need to be considered to achieve those goals.
  • Mine Waste Issues in the United States: A White Paper developed by the Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC).Adobe PDF Logo This paper highlights the four areas that states and industries consider most important to address: pollution prevention, waste management, remediation and reuse, and legacy management. It also introduces innovative solutions to historical and current environmental problems in the industry.
  • Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). OSM is responsible for establishing a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations.

Characterization and Remediation

  • Brownfields Technology Primer: Mine Site Cleanup for Brownfields Redevelopment. Adobe PDF Logo The Primer provides information about approaches that have been used for redevelopment of mining sites, as well as new and innovative approaches to more efficiently characterize and clean up those sites.
  • Investigative Strategies for Lead-Source Attribution at Superfund Sites Associated with Mining Activities. Identification of potentially responsible parties is complicated because Superfund sites can have a long history of use and involve contaminants that can have many sources. Such is often the case for mining sites that involve metal contamination; metals occur naturally in the environment, they can be contaminants in the wastes generated at or released from the sites, and they can be used in consumer products, which can degrade and release the metals back to the environment. This report examines the extent to which various sources contribute to environmental lead contamination at Superfund sites that are near lead-mining areas and focuses on sources that contribute to lead contamination at sites near the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District. It recommends potential improvements in approaches used for assessing sources of lead contamination at or near Superfund sites.
  • Mine Waste Characterization Project, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS has taken a multidisciplinary approach to assemble, develop, and refine methods and tools for characterizing and screening weathered solid mine wastes. Tools developed from this work can be used in ranking and prioritizing historical mining waste piles.
  • Mining Waste Treatment Technology Selection. Developed by ITRC, this site assists project managers in selecting an applicable technology or suite of technologies that can be used to remediate sites contaminated by mining waste. Each technology is described, along with a summary of the applicability, advantages, limitations, performance, stakeholder and regulatory considerations, and lessons learned from past applications.
  • National Technology Development and Transfer Website, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). OSMRE's Technology Development and Transfer Program supports and enhances the technical skills that states and tribes need to operate their regulatory and reclamation programs and to effectively implement the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
  • Office of Technology Transfer, Colorado School of Mines. This website provides links to fact sheets on available technologies developed by the school's faculty and students, a list of resources on technology transfer, and links to the school's latest research publications.
  • Operation and Maintenance of Passive Acid Mine Drainage Treatment Systems: A Framework for Watershed Groups. Adobe PDF Logo This report proposes a systematic framework for developing and maintaining AMD projects. It lists things to try when developing new projects, observing completed projects, or coming back to projects with problems. Successes and failures in passive AMD treatment systems have led to improvements in design of treatment measures, rules for selecting and sizing them, and methods to refurbish them when needed. A lifespan of 20 years is rare, but several projects have done well for five to seven years, lost efficacy, and resumed function after rejuvenation. This report aims to encourage watershed groups to develop plans for project operation and maintenance and resources to carry out those plans.
  • Planning for Response Actions at Abandoned Mines with Underground Workings: Best Practices for Preventing Sudden, Uncontrolled Fluid Mining Waste Releases (OLEM 9200.3-118). Adobe PDF Logo The Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation and the Office of Emergency Management recommend applying these best practices, as appropriate, when carrying out EPA-lead activities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act at hardrock mining and mineral processing sites with underground mine workings posing actual or potential fluid release hazards (July 2017, 70 pages).
  • Reference Guide to Treatment Technologies for Mining-Influenced Water. Adobe PDF Logo This report highlights select mining-influenced water (MIW) treatment technologies used or piloted as part of remediation efforts at mine sites. It is intended to provide information on treatment technologies for MIW to federal, state and local regulators, site owners and operators, consultants, and other stakeholders. Included in the report are short descriptions of treatment technologies and information on the contaminants treated, pre-treatment requirements, long-term maintenance needs, performance, and costs. Sample sites illustrate considerations associated with selecting a technology. Website links and sources for more information on each topic are also included. This fact sheet provides more detail on the information included in the report Adobe PDF Logo and a searchable library of summary information for the technologies discussed in the body of the report, as well as additional technologies or products designed as passive or low cost treatment options, is available.

Ecosystem Goods and Services

  • Ecosystem Goods and Services Case Studies and Models Support Community Decision Making Using the Enviroatlas and Eco-Health Relationship Browser
    Bolgrien, D.W., T.R. Angradi, J. Bousquin, T.J. Canfield, T.H. DeWitt, R.S. Fulford, et al.
    EPA 600-R-18-167, 109 pp, 2018
    Case studies, data tools, and models are presented to illuminate multiple lines of inquiry focused on improving the public's use of ecosystem goods and services (EGS) concepts for addressing environmental, social, and economic problems. The report summarizes current strategies for using EGS case studies and models to support community decision-making while highlighting the broad use of the EnviroAtlas and Eco-Health Relationship Browser.
  • How the Community Value of Ecosystem Goods and Services Empowers Communities to Impact the Outcomes of Remediation Restoration and Revitalization Projects
    Williams, K.C., D.W. Bolgrien, J.C. Hoffman, T.R. Angradi, J. Carlson, R. Clarke, et al.
    EPA 600-R-17-292, 61 pp, 2018
    This report summarizes a systematic and comprehensive investigation of Remediation to Restoration to Revitalization (R2R2R) in the Great Lakes region. R2R2R is a place-based practice that requires ongoing communication amongst federal and state agencies, local governments, and citizens. Data from the Great Lakes Area of Concern collaboration were analyzed to identify forces that shaped decisions, participation, and the inclusion of stakeholder and public values. Two frameworks were then created that can be used to facilitate interpretation and transparency. One framework can be applied to decision contexts to discuss who-what-how decision outcomes. The second framework can be used to interpret distinct values and facilitate communication or comparison across boundaries of experience or responsibility. The frameworks are designed to improve transparency and facilitate conversations about decisions and ecosystem services.
  • Practical Strategies for Assessing Final Ecosystem Goods and Services in Community Decision Making: FY 17 Output SHC 2.61
    U.S. EPA, Office of Research and Development, Gulf Breeze, FL.
    EPA 600-R-18-183, 41 pp, 2018
    Research outputs from the Community-Based Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Project in the Sustainable and Healthy Communities National Research Program are presented. The report summarizes how community-based studies have previously utilized ecosystem services to inform aspects of their decision-making, identify best practices that might transfer to other communities, and identify gaps in those practices.
  • Ecosystem Goods and Services Production and Benefit Functions Case Studies Report: FY 16 Output SHC 2.61
    U.S. EPA, Office of Research and Development, Gulf Breeze, FL.
    EPA 600-R-18-189, 32 pp, 2018
    Research and development conducted under the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program is intended to inform and empower decision-makers to weigh and integrate human health, socio-economic, environmental, and ecological factors to foster sustainability in the built and natural environments. This report describes EPA's research to incorporate the sustainability of final ecosystem goods and services production and benefits into community-scale decision making at study sites around the United States.

Mine Pools

Mine pools are groundwater that has accumulated in the voids left by mining activities. Click to expand the list of resources.

  • Mechanisms of Water-Rock Interaction and Implications for Remediating Flooded Mine Workings Elucidated from Environmental Tracers, Stable Isotopes, and Rare Earth Elements
    This paper examines the behavior of the stable isotopes of water, sulfate, and carbon, rare earth elements, and environmental tracers (noble gases and tritium), in groundwater, mine water, and surface water around the Captain Jack Mill Superfund site near Ward, Colorado. The work develops a framework for investigations at abandoned mine sites to help plan the transition from active to passive treatment. The geochemical tracers provide a template for similar investigations where physical mixing processes, sources of solute loading, and remedial timeframes are important.
  • Assessing Risks of Mine Tailing Dam Failures
    This 2019 interim report reviews historical tailings dam failures, failure mechanisms, and current design and risk assessment practices. A methodology for performing a qualitative assessment of tailings dam risk exposure considers dam attributes and characteristics of the area downstream to obtain a hazard rating index (HR).The calculation of HR does not need very detailed information and can be estimated for multiple dams simultaneously, providing for a rapid assessment of potential damages that can be updated overtime. HR can be used as a guide to assess potential risks to downstream communities as part of a strategy for elicitation of potential financial risk information for investors; it is not, however, a substitute for formal inundation analyses. An illustrative test case of HR calculation is based on 179 tailings dams located in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
  • In Situ Analytical Characterization of Contaminated Sites Using Nuclear Spectrometry Techniques: Review of Methodologies and Measurements
    International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. IAEA Analytical Quality in Nuclear Applications Series No. 49, 206 pp, 2017
    This publication presents a comprehensive review of the in situ gamma ray spectrometry and field-portable X-ray fluorescence analysis techniques for the characterization of sites contaminated with metals and radionuclides. Diverse authors from IAEA member states contributed papers on the use of these techniques, which provide useful background information for conducting similar studies.
  • Detection of Mixing Dynamics During Pumping of a Flooded Coal Mine. This 2013 paper in the journal Groundwater (52(2): 251-263) examines the application of isotopic environmental tracers (C-, H-, O-, S- stable isotopic analyses, and age indicators, i.e., C-14, H-3) to detect groundwater sources and mixing dynamics in a system of large, interconnected underground voids. The system can be regarded as pseudo-karstic and comprises the abandoned, flooded underground workings of a coal mine at Deerplay in Lancashire, UK. Author's free pre-publication version.
  • Hydrochemical Stratification in Flooded Underground Mines: An Overlooked Pitfall. This 2004 paper in the Journal of Contaminant Hydrology (69(1-2):101-114) describes the significance of stratification in flooded underground mine water and discusses mine conditions that can lead to the development of such stratification. The authors point out that stratification can easily change following hydraulic disturbance of the system, either by pumping or natural decant when the water level reaches an outflow pathway from the mine system. Test pumping of a stratified system at Frances Colliery in Scotland provided insight about how stratified systems develop and how they can behave when disturbed. The authors discuss how, together with other information from literature, the work at Frances Colliery supports the proposal of criteria for recognizing when stratification of mine water quality might be anticipated.
  • In Situ Treatment of Mine Pools and Pit Lakes. This webpage of the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) provides an overview of in situ treatment of mine pools and pit lakes, and includes advantages, limitations, performance, costs, regulatory and stakeholder considerations, examples, case studies, and additional references for information on this technology. The technology overview is part of ITRC's web-based technical and regulatory guidance on Mining Waste Treatment Technology Selection.
  • Investigating Hydraulic Connections and the Origin of Water in a Mine Tunnel Using Stable Isotopes and Hydrographs. Adobe PDF Logo The study described in this 2009 paper in Applied Geochemistry (24: 2266–2282) illustrates the use of stable isotope analysis to evaluate the hydrological connections between two water bodies. Specifically, the study uses analysis of stable-isotope ratios in draining mine tunnels, transmountain diversion tunnels, streams, springs and seeps, a reservoir, and snowpack in conjunction with hydrographs and water-quality field measurements to evaluate the hypothesized hydrologic connection between draining mine tunnels (particularly the Dinero mine tunnel) and a nearby reservoir (Turquoise Lake) from 2002 through early 2008. The isotope data also were used to understand different sources of water to the study area and the Dinero mine tunnel, and to identify areas where mixing occurs.
  • Mine Water: Hydrology, Pollution, Remediation. This 2002 e-book explains the complexities of mine water pollution by reviewing the hydrogeological context of its formation, and provides an up-to-date presentation of prevention and treatment technologies.
  • Mine Water Stratification at Abandoned Mines and its Geochemical Model. Adobe PDF Logo This paper, presented at the 2008 International Mine Water Association, includes a detailed geochemical model of stratified layers formation and their time evolution in the Oslavany coal mine Jindrich II in the Czech Republic. Mine water sampling and in-depth resistivity and temperature logging identified three layers of stratified mine water, with sharp transitions between layers and distinctive concentrations of dissolved solids.
  • Mine Water Tracer Tests as a Basis for Remediation Strategies. Adobe PDF Logo This 2005 paper in Chemie der Erde 65 (S1, 65–74) focuses on tracer tests in flooded underground mines to evaluate their hydraulic characteristics. For this purpose, the results of several tracer experiments are compared in the context of potential remediation strategies and the source–path–target methodology (a methodology that suggests remediation action should preferably be taken at the source rather than the path or target). Results from these tests have implications for optimizing the outcome of the source–path–target methodology and reducing costs of remediation strategies.
  • Planning for Response Actions at Abandoned Mines with Underground Workings: Best Practices for Preventing Sudden, Uncontrolled Fluid Mining Waste Releases (OLEM 9200.3-118). Adobe PDF Logo The Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation and the Office of Emergency Management recommend applying these best practices, as appropriate, when carrying out EPA-lead activities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act at hardrock mining and mineral processing sites with underground mine workings posing actual or potential fluid release hazards (July 2017, 70 pages).
  • Water Management at Abandoned Flooded Underground Mines: Fundamentals, Tracer Tests, Modelling, Water Treatment. This 2006 e-book addresses the most relevant aspects of mine water management during or after a mine's closure. The text describes mine closure procedures, the hydrodynamic processes of a flooded mine, and several mine closure flow models. The book also discusses several key issues of monitoring and sampling, as well as new methodologies for conducting tracer tests in flooded mines. Thirteen case studies on flooded underground mines and conducting mine water tracer tests are included.
  • Use of Natural and Applied Tracers to Guide Targeted Remediation Efforts in an Acid Mine Drainage System, Colorado Rockies, USA. This 2014 paper in the journal Water (6(4): 745-777) discusses the use of natural and applied tracers, including isotopes, ionic tracers, and fluorescent dyes, to define hydrologic connections between surface water, groundwater, and mine workings at the Rico-Argentine Mine in southwestern Colorado. The tracers enable a better understanding of the source of both water and contaminants in the drainage tunnel discharge, facilitating the development of targeted remediation strategies.

  • Basin Mining Area OU6 (Bullion Mine), Final Volume 1: Focused Remedial Investigation & Basin Mining Area OU6 (Bullion Mine), Final Volume 2: Focused Feasibility Study. These EPA reports detail the focused remedial investigation (RI) and draft feasibility study (FS) that were performed on Operable Unit 6 at the Bullion Mine site, which is located within the Basin Mining Area National Priorities List site near Basin, Montana. The RI characterizes the nature and extent of contamination, describes the fate and transport of contaminants, and presents the results of screening level risk assessment of risks to human health and the environment in sufficient detail to support the development, evaluation, and selection of appropriate remedial alternatives. The draft FS provides a structured means to identify, develop and evaluate remedial alternatives to eliminate, prevent, reduce, or control human health and/or environmental risks identified during the RI, and contribute to compliance with CERCLA.
  • Black Pine Mine Granite County, Montana. Environmental monitoring data and other relevant information from the Black Pine Mine have been compiled to provide an overview of past monitoring activities/results and current site conditions to aid in future site use and reclamation planning.
  • Formosa Mine Superfund Site, Douglas County, Oregon: Final OU1 Remedial Investigation Report. EPA's final remedial investigation (RI) report for Operable Unit 1 (OU1) at the Formosa Mine Superfund site in Douglas County, Oregon, characterizes physical characteristics, nature and extent of contamination, fate and transport processes, and risks to human health and ecological receptors in sufficient detail to support the feasibility study (FS). This RI report is focused on OU1, but also describes data associated with OU2.
  • Investigative Methods for Controlling Groundwater Flow to Underground Mine Workings.
    The web-based document of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service discusses hydrological/hydrogeological, soil and vegetation, and geoscientific methods for investigating groundwater source areas and illustrates how these methods were applied during investigations of the Elkhorn and Charter Oak Mines, Montana.
  • Keystone Potato Products' Mine Pool Treatment System Expansion Project. Adobe PDF Logo This document briefly discusses Keystone Potato Products' project to design, construct and install a treatment system for mine-impacted well water, which it extracts for plant operations. High levels of iron and manganese in the extracted water (average of 3 million gallons monthly) fouled plant processes, put Keystone in violation of its NPDES wastewater discharge permit, and contributed to the impairment of the Swatara Creek watershed. The new system operates 'in front' of the previously existing greensand filtration system and effectively removes 10 pounds per day of iron and one pound per day of manganese.
  • Management and Control of Abandoned Mine Pool Discharges: Pennsylvania Case Studies Workshop. Adobe PDF Logo This paper presented at the 29th Annual National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs Conference provides a series of case studies that highlight various approaches for treatment and reuse of mine pool waters at mining sites in Pennsylvania.
  • Technical Memorandum: Reopening of the Portals of the Lower Spaulding Adit and the McLaren Adit or Winter Tunnel. Adobe PDF Logo The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service technical memorandum describes the reopening of two caved adits within Montana's Custer Gallatin National Forest in order to conduct preliminary assessments of water in-flows prior to designing and constructing long-term adit closures. One of these is the Lower Spaulding Adit located on the southern flank of Scotch Bonnet Mountain, north of the Como Pit; and the other is the McLaren Adit, or Winter Tunnel, located at the northwest end of the McLaren Pit.

  • Prioritisation of Abandoned Non-Coal Mine Impacts on the Environment. This Environment Agency, UK, report presents an evaluation of the water-related impacts of abandoned non-coal mines across England and Wales. This assessment was carried out to prioritize the rivers in England and Wales where contamination from these mines has the highest impact and where there is the greatest risk that water bodies will fail to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive due to abandoned non-coal mines. The report shows the scale of environmental issues associated with abandoned non-coal mines, as well as illustrates the specific nature of these problems and the areas of England and Wales where such problems are most acute.

Revitalization and Redevelopment

  • Abandoned Mine Lands Revitalization and Reuse Website, U.S. EPA. As part of EPA's commitment to finding innovative and effective solutions to the potential threats abandoned mine lands pose to human health and the environment, significant attention is being focused on potential future uses of these lands and the economic, environmental, and social benefits that reuse can provide.
  • Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative. The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative is a coalition of groups, including citizens, the coal industry, and government dedicated to restoring forests on coal mined lands in the Eastern United States.
  • RE-Powering America's Land: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites. EPA encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated land and mine sites when it is aligned with the community's vision for the site. This initiative identifies the renewable energy potential of these sites and provides other useful resources for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments or anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.
  • Soil Amendments. This page discusses soil-related issues, including soil health and the use of soil amendments to revitalize soils in order to make them suitable for sustaining plant life or development.
  • Soil and Landscape Rehabilitation: Reclamation — Remediation — Restoration — Revegetation — Revitalization (Publications). This page contains a list of and provides access to publications by a research team comprised of research scientists, graduate students, staff and faculty working in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The research and associated publications focus on coal mined land reclamation and associated water quality issues, wetland creation & restoration, acid sulfate soil remediation, roadside revegetation, dredge spoil utilization, manufactured soil production, by-product screening, and an array of related research based in environmental soil science.

Radioactive Materials