Mine Reclamation and

Remediation: The EPA and its
Issues, with a Focus on the Gold
King Mine Spill of August 2015
Sarah Kuper

What is Mine Reclamation and Remediation?
 Rehabilitation of mine sites
 Reclamation on public land
 Remediation on private land

 Mines under several
circumstances
 Abandoned
 Bankruptcy declared
 Still under private ownership

 Primary hazards
 Acid mine drainage (AMD)
 Soil contamination

Entrance to the Gold King Mine, 6 August 2015

A Brief History of Mining in Colorado
 1858: Gold found
 1859: Colorado Gold Rush
 Preliminary laws created
 Multiple ores mined, including gold,
silver, lead, copper, and zinc

 1872: General Mining Law passed
by Congress
 Early 20th century: Most mines
abandoned
Miners at work in the Gold King Mine in 1899

 1970s: Clean Water Act passed and
EPA begins regulation of mines

What’s the Issue?
 1872 General Mining Law still in place
 No royalties paid by mine owners for ore
 160,000+ abandoned mines in West, 33,000 causing environmental harm

 Superfund project
 Comes with a stigma so many fight site declaration
 Severely underfunded
 Tax specific to project ended in early 2000s, now reliant on congressional
appropriations

 No collaboration between agencies and private entities
 Older, unreliable methods
 Don’t adequately address issues, especially with concern to water

 Heavy metal contamination

Contamination Risks
 Communities use watersheds in
multiple ways
 Fish and plant life also affected
 Acidity can kill fish
 Fish can bioaccumulate toxins like
mercury
 Continued exposure to AMD
lowers genetic diversity in plants

 Heavy metals
pH test of the sludge from the Gold King Mine. It is acidic with a
pH of 4.

How Do We Solve the Problem?
 Get more $$$$$
 Develop better remediation
methods
 Other people have successfully
remediated mines similar to Gold
King (Idorado Gold Mine, CO)

 Collaborate between federal, state,
and private agencies
The Animas River before and after the spill.

 Reform current mining legislation

Works Cited

Chapin, Charles E. "Origin Of The Colorado Mineral Belt." Geosphere 8.1 (2012): 28-43. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

Fiscor, Steve. "Gold King Spill Daylights EPA's Poor Remediation Practices." Engineering & Mining Journal (00958948) 216.9 (2015): 66-68. Academic
Search Complete. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

Frosch, Dan, and Alexandra Berzon. "Colorado Mine Spill Highlights Superfund Challenges." Wall Street Journal (Online) 12 Sept. 2015: 1. Academic
Search Complete. Web. 11 Oct. 2016

Frosch, Dan, and Alexandra Berzon. "Mine Spill Highlights Superfund Challenges." Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition 12 Sept. 2015: A3. Academic
Search Complete. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

“Follow-Up Monitoring Data from Gold King Mine Incident.” EPA, 5 Aug. 2016, www.epa.gov/goldkingmine/follow-monitoring-data-gold-kingmine-incident. Accessed 11 Oct. 2016.

“General Mining Law of 1872.” EARTHWORKS, www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/general_mining_law_of_1872. Accessed 10 Oct. 2016.

“The Gold King Mine: From An 1887 Claim, Private Profits And Social Costs.” Colorado Public Radio, 17 Aug. 2015, www.cpr.org/news/story/goldking-mine-1887-claim-private-profits-and-social-costs. Accessed 13 Oct. 2016.

Hafs, Andrew W., et al. "Influences Of Acid Mine Drainage And Thermal Enrichment On Stream Fish Reproduction And Larval Survival."
Northeastern Naturalist 17.4 (2010): 575-592. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Levings, C. D., et al. "Effects Of Acid Mine Drainage On The Estuarine Food Web, Britannia Beach, Howe Sound, British Columbia, Canada."
Hydrobiologia 525.1-3 (2004): 185-202. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Martins, Nelson, et al. "Effects Of Acid Mine Drainage On The Genetic Diversity And Structure Of A Natural Population Of Daphnia
Longispina." Aquatic Toxicology 92.2 (2009): 104-112. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Oct. 2016

Mittal, Anu K.. “ABANDONED MINES Information on the Number of Hardrock Mines, Cost of Cleanup, and Value of Financial
Assurances.” United States Government Accountability Office, 14 July 2011,www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-834T. Accessed 13 Oct. 2016.

“The Summitville Mine and its Downstream Effects.” USGS, pubs.usgs.gov/of/1995/ofr-95-0023/summit.htm. Accessed 11 Oct. 2016.

“Superfund.” EPA, 21 June 2016, www.epa.gov/superfund. Accessed 11 Oct. 2016.