Reclamation

Did you know?

U.S. mining companies have reclaimed for other beneficial uses more than 2.6 million acres of mined land.

Since 1978, more than 2.7 million acres of mined lands have been restored to other beneficial uses, as well as more than 100,000 acres of coal mines abandoned long ago.

At all U.S. mining operations, detailed reclamation plans must be approved by government officials before mining begins. Reclamation bonds are posted by mining companies to ensure successful completion of the process. Reclamation includes the following steps:

  • contouring of land;
  • placement of topsoil or an approved substitute on the graded area;
  • reseeding with native vegetation, crops and/or trees; and
  • years of careful monitoring to assure success.

Ultimately, reclaimed sites are returned to many productive uses, ranging from recreation areas, economic development parks, farms, golf courses and housing developments to wildlife areas and wetlands.

As surface mines are developed, the topsoil is saved as the overburden (dirt and rock covering the mineral-bearing ore) is removed. That topsoil is then used for reclaiming mined areas, so that native trees and grasses can be replanted and thrive. Humid areas with gentle topography are the easiest to restore and revegetate, but special techniques have been developed for use in arid, mountainous and arctic regions

Care is taken to minimize erosion and runoff where ground cover is temporarily removed. Special flood-control and sediment-control measures are necessary to prevent damage.

Although underground mines do not have as much surface disruption, they do have reclamation responsibilities for stabilizing tailings ponds while mining and reclaiming the area when mining is completed. Any surface subsidence must also be accounted for and included in mining plans. As always, surface and groundwater must be protected from acid drainage and metal components higher than the ambient water levels.

Mining companies are constantly seeking better methods of reclaiming mined lands.

U.S. Mining Reclamation

The 2011 Department of the Interior Annual Environment, Reclamation Award winners can be found here: 2011 DOI Environmental Awards