Feds lambasted for neglecting cleanup of abandoned mines
Thousands of abandoned mines across the U.S. West pose hazards to the public, according to a strongly worded audit from the Interior Department inspector general. The Bureau of Land Management’s mine program “has been undermined, neglected, and marginalized,” says the report, and many easily accessible mines have “dangerously dilapidated structures, serious environmental hazards, and gaping cavities.” With very few fences and warning signs, passersby can stroll right in to areas tainted with dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury. “Even more disturbing,” says the report, “we found that BLM supervisors told staff to ignore these problems, and employees were criticized or received threats of retaliation for identifying contaminated sites.” Mining companies have minimal responsibility for post-digging cleanup, and no dedicated funding source exists for mine remediation. A bill to update antiquated U.S. mining law passed the House of Representatives in the fall, but has stalled in the Senate.