GREEN RIVER -- Federal officials are increasing their efforts to mitigate abandoned mine hazards on public lands across the West, including just more than 1,000 sites in Wyoming, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
BLM Director Bob Abbey announced late last week the agency is embarking on a new initiative that aims to reach out to mining claim holders on federal lands to mitigate abandoned mine hazards.
Abbey said the effort is in response to BLM concerns about the growing number of accidents and hazards related to past mining efforts on public lands.
He said the agency has been using computerized land records and maps to identified abandoned mine sites.
"We're taking a proactive approach to warning active mining claimants whose mining claims include hazardous sites," Abbey said in a media release.
BLM spokesman Kevin Flynn said the agency's Abandoned Mine Lands program has been actively engaged since 2009 in efforts to identify mine hazards on public lands, with help from mine claimants when possible.
The BLM conducted a geospatial analysis using the agency's abandoned mine database to inventory which mining claims on public lands may contain abandoned mine hazards.
As of Jan. 1, the inventory contained nearly 25,280 sites, including 1,047 sites spread throughout Wyoming.
Approximately 20 percent of the sites have either been remediated, have reclamation actions planned or under way, or do not require further action.
Under the new initiative, the BLM plans to work with mine claimants, landowners, the mining industry and recreational user groups to reduce or remediate those identified mine hazards.
Flynn said nearly 4,000 holders of active mining claims -- located in 13 Western states and Alaska -- will be contacted by the BLM to advise them of hazards that have been reported within or near the boundaries of their claims.
The BLM has the authority to address mine hazards under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
The initiative says if the BLM determines that an abandoned mine hazard on a mining claim poses an imminent threat to public health and the environment, then BLM field personnel will make a reasonable effort to inform the claimant -- in person or by mail -- 30 days before mitigation or closure efforts are instituted.
Flynn said all holders of active mining claims on federal lands were sent a general notice about the initiative in September.
Claimants were encouraged in the letter to familiarize themselves with federal regulations.
Contact southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino at (307) 875-5359 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Web
More information about the abandoned mines mitigation initiative can be found at http://www.blm.gov/wo.st/en/prog/more/Abandoned_Mine-Lands.html.