Friday, July 25, 2008

Audit criticizes federal handling of abandoned mine lands

An audit [C-IN-MOA-0004-2007, Abandoned Mine Lands in the Department of the Interior] by the Dept. of Interior Inspector General criticizes the management of abandoned mine lands by BLM and the National Park Service in California, Nevada, and Arizona. The report states:

We concluded that BLM and NPS are putting the public’s health and safety at risk by not addressing hazards posed by abandoned mines on their lands. Although NPS has been more effective at protecting the public, there are still many more sites that need to be mitigated. Mines located on BLM and NPS lands primarily in the western states of California, Arizona, and Nevada. We identified abandoned mines where members of the public had been killed, injured, or exposed to dangerous environmental contaminants. Growth of the population and use of off-road vehicles in the West will increase the likelihood of additional deaths or injuries.

While BLM has the clear majority of abandoned mine sites on DOI lands, we found that it has an ineffective program to address them. BLM’s abandoned mines program has long been undermined, neglected, and marginalized by poor management practices and insufficient staffing and resources.

We found that NPS has mitigated many of its high-risk, easily accessible abandoned mine sites; however, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sites that still need to be addressed.

[above: Sunnyside adit, Alum Gulch, AZ. Credit: BLM/USFS]

disclaimer: AZGS is in partnership with BLM-AZ in running the "Explore Arizona" outdoor information center and store in Phoenix.

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