OFFICE of SURFACE MINING
RECLAMATION and ENFORCEMENT

U.S. Department of the Interior

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For More Information:

Elizabeth Shaeffer
Program Support Division
(303) 293-5025
eshaeffer@osmre.gov


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Abandoned Mine Lands

Restoring the Environment of Abandoned Mine Lands

Abandoned mine lands (AML) are lands and waters that have been adversely impacted by historic mining. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was passed in 1977 and which requires operators to reclaim lands that are disturbed from coal mining operations. Oftentimes lands mined previous to this legislation were left in unsafe conditions.

Hazards to humans associated with abandoned mine lands include:

  • Open entrances to underground mines;
  • Collapse of mine workings under existing structures, such as homes;
  • Unreclaimed or inadequately reclaimed refuse piles; and
  • Fumes and surface instability resulting from mine fires and burning coal refuse.

Restoration activities under the Federal Reclamation Program correct or mitigate hazards on abandoned mine lands. Many historic mine features have yet to be catalogued and public input is an important part of discovering these unsafe areas more frequently encountered by private citizens.

The Western Region of the Office of Surface Mining administers the Federal Reclamation Program, which includes reclamation of coal mine hazards in Western States and Tribes which do not have a State/Tribe AML Program approved under the SMCRA. The Federal AML Program includes California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and some Tribal lands.

The Western Region of the Office of Surface Mining administers the Federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program, which includes restoration of coal mine hazards in western states and tribes which do not have a state/tribe AML program approved under the Surface Mining Law. These include: California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and most tribal lands. If you are interested in viewing the NEPA analysis and the FONSI or the finding of NEPA adequacy please click on the following link: Abandoned Mine Lands NEPA Documentation.

Contact Information

For more information about the Federal AML Program or to report an emergency, please contact Elizabeth Shaeffer at (303) 293 - 5025.

For more information about OSMRE Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands, visit the OSMRE website at https://www.osmre.gov/programs/AML.shtm.

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 2/28/18

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