Inactive and Abandoned Mine Lands

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Inactive and Abandoned Mine Lands 

Ruins of the Sierra Zinc flotation mill in Stevens Co., built in 1941 and closed in 1956. Photo by Fritz WolffThe Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Geology and Earth Resources (DGER) has created a database (in Microsoft Access format) and a series of written reports documenting present-day characteristics of selected Inactive and Abandoned Mine Lands (IAML) in the state. The program of site characterization was initiated in 1999, and the continuing body of work has been accomplished through interagency grants awarded by the U.S. Forest Service, Region 6. Documentation focuses on physical characteristics and hazards (openings, structures, materials, and waste) and water-related issues (acid mine drainage and metals transport). Accurate location, current ownership, and land status information is included. Acquiring this information provides a critical first step in determining if remedial or reclamation activities are warranted, and also serves to update information on many properties last characterized circa the 1970s.
More than 3800 mineral properties have been located in the state during the last 100 years (Huntting, 1956). Many are undeveloped prospects of little economic importance. Therefore, in considering the population to include in the IAML inventory, we have identified approximately 60 sites that meet one of the following criteria: (a) more than 2000 feet of underground development, (b) more than 10,000 tons of production, (c) location of a known mill site or smelter. This subset of sites includes only metal mines no longer in operation.
A state-managed database has advantages because the state has access to many of the records needed (for example, land ownership) and can easily update and maintain the database. This database is critical to a systematic survey and prioritization of environmental hazards, site remediation, and reclamation of wildlife habitat at these mines. To date the EPA, USFS, and DNR have contributed funding for the project.
A copy of the IAML database may be viewed with assistance from DGER personnel. Reports may be obtained online.
For more information, see “Washington’s Inactive and Abandoned Metal Mine Inventory and Database” in the September 2000 issue of Washington Geology.
Reference cited
Huntting, Marshall T., 1956, Inventory of Washington minerals; Part II–Metallic minerals: Washington Division of Mines and Geology Bulletin 37, Part II, 2 v.

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