Skip to content
July 25th, 2008
Department of Interior Poorly Manages Abandoned Mines

Washington, D.C.—Today, an audit released by the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General states that the Department’s poor management of abandoned mines poses public health and safety risks.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands, has released a statement about this report.

“The fact that reform of the 1872 Mining Act did not occur this Congress is a grave disappointment. The release of this latest report on abandoned mines by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General further confirms that the law should have been reformed years ago.  Mining has left behind a legacy of contaminated lands and rivers, abandoned mines leaching poisonous metals into groundwater and other hazards to the public.

“Last year in Arizona, a young girl was killed when she and her sister drove their vehicle into a mineshaft that had been left exposed after the site was abandoned.  Located on federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the mineshaft was hidden by brush and there were no signs or barriers to warn anyone about the danger.  The younger sister was trapped overnight with her sister’s body before rescuers found them the next morning.

“The Inspector General’s report confirmed that neither the Bureau of Land Management nor the National Park Service is doing what it should to protect the public from dangers of abandoned mines on public lands.

“In addition, continually underfunding the Department of Interior and lack of oversight over this issue by the Bush Administration have led us to where we are today.

“The House passed H.R 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act, last year which would have required royalty payments for extraction of minerals from public lands, which do not exist today.  Those royalties, in turn, would have been set aside for reclamation and a clean-up account for abandoned mines. This bill is unnecessarily stalled in the Senate and there is no legitimate reason for it not to move forward during this session of Congress.

“Arizona is one of the states with $40 billion in clean up costs of old mines. I consider this to be a failure of our federal land agencies, the executive branch and Congress to hold private mining companies accountable for the damage they do to resources owned by the American people. 

“Should mining reform fail to pass, next session I will work in Congress and with the new Administration to take measures to help communities deal with mine contamination, uphold environmental standards and ensure safety.  The current outdated law is simply a giveaway of our public lands.  We need a Mining Act that sets aside money for reclamation and clean up.”

Back To News