Upcoming Abandoned Mine Reclamation Projects

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) estimates there are 20,000 abandoned mine openings across the state. Since the program began in 1983, approximately 6,000 of those have been closed.

The AMRP prioritizes project areas for mine closures (often mining districts) using a geographic information system (GIS) model. The model analyzes factors such as the estimated number of mines, proximity to roads and nearby population, and land use to find the areas of highest risk. 

Utah has a rich mining history and provides nearly every mineral needed by our modern society, including copper, silver, and uranium. Park City, Eureka, and Moab were established by miners. When the mines no longer produced, they were often simply abandoned leaving hazardous equipment, open shafts, tunnels, and piles of waste rock. The Utah Mined Land Reclamation Act was passed in 1975, making it illegal for mines to be abandoned. In 1977, the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was created to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts.

SMCRA created the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to pay for the cleanup of mine lands abandoned before 1977. The fund is financed by a tax on coal mining operations. 80 percent of AML fees are distributed to approved state programs to fund reclamation activities. Coal reclamation projects are the first priority, but hard rock (gold, nickel, lead, etc.) reclamation projects can also be eligible.

Once mine openings are identified for closure, several planning and analysis tasks come before any dirt is moved. As federally-funded projects, reclamation work is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as well as other state and local laws. These laws require agencies to consider the effects of the project on cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, and the human environment. This entire process can take up to one year.

Once NEPA is completed, a construction contractor is selected through the Division of Purchasing bid process and construction can be scheduled.

The following is a list of upcoming AMRP projects scheduled for spring and summer this year:

  • Diamond Gulch West in Juab County will close approximately 82 mine openings on private land with backfill and rebar grates.    
  • Dutch Mountain in Tooele County will close approximately 116 mine openings on public land with backfill, masonry walls, and rebar grates.
  • Kenilworth Maintenance III in Carbon County will provide stream restoration by regrading and installing riprap in a series of check structures to reduce flow velocity.         
  • Chief One Subsidence in Juab County will use a concrete cap and approximately 23,000 cubic yards of fill material to close a large subsidence hole.
  • Factory Butte Adit in Wayne County will close one coal mine opening with a block wall and backfill.
  • Hiawatha Phase I in Carbon County will close approximately 15 coal mine portals with block walls and backfill.       
  • Honerine Portal in Tooele County will re-timber a historic mine portal on private land and install a gate to preserve cultural integrity.     
  • Poverty Flat in Sevier County will close two mine openings; one shaft with backfill and one incline with culvert and bat grate.       
  • Prince of Wales Shafts in Salt Lake County will repair three grated shafts on private land in the Wasatch Range. Helicopter support to move supplies will be required.

The AMRP’s mission is to protect the public from dangers of old mines. Mining sites can be intriguing to unsuspecting explorers but can contain dangerous gases, unstable structures and explosives. Stay Out and Stay Alive!

Tips to staying safe:

  • Stay on designated trails and routes
  • Check maps for mines before heading out, but remember that many mines aren’t mapped
  • Never enter an abandoned mine- stay out, stay alive!
  • Familiarize yourself with the landscape and know signs of mining areas (mine dumps, headframes, and old equipment)
  • Respect private property and NO TRESPASSING signs

For more information about the AMRP or for a full list of upcoming projects, visit https://www.ogm.utah.gov/amr/index.php