Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The USGS Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative: Protecting and restoring the environment near abandoned mine lands

July 1, 1999

The Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Initiative is part of a larger strategy of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to clean up Federal lands contaminated by abandoned mines.

Thousands of abandond hard-rock metal mines (such as gold, copper, lead, and zinc) have left a dual legacy across the Western United States. They reflect the historic development of the west, yet at the same time represent a possible threat to human health and local ecosystems.

Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) are areas adjacent to or affected by abandoned mines. AML's often contain unmined mineral deposits, mine dumps (the ore and rock removed to get to the ore deposits), and tailings (the material left over from the ore processing) that contaminate the surrounding watershed and ecosystem. For example, streams near AML's can contain metals and (or) be so acidic that fish and aquatic insects cannot live in them.

Many of these abandoned hard-rock mines are located on or adjacent to public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service. These federal land management agencies and the USGS are committed to mitigating the adverse effects that AML's can have on water quality and stream habitats.

The USGS AML Initiative began in 1997 and will continue through 2001 in two pilot watersheds - the Boulder River basin in southwestern Montana and the upper Animas River basin in southwestern Colorado. The USGS is providing a wide range of scientific expertise to help land managers minimize and, where possible, eliminate the adverse environmental effects of AML's. USGS ecologists, geologists, water quality experts, hydrologists, geochemists, and mapping and digital data collection experts are collaborating to provide the scientific knowledge needed for an effective cleanup of AML's.

Publication Year 1999
Title The USGS Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative: Protecting and restoring the environment near abandoned mine lands
DOI 10.3133/fs09599
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 095-99
Index ID fs09599
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program