Conference Brief: Best Available Techniques for Mine Impacted Lands

Over 150 years after the Gold Rush, the State of California continues to grapple with impacts stemming from legacy mining operations. The Sierra Nevada landscape is riddled with abandoned mine lands (AMLs) that present both physical and chemical hazards to residents, tourists, and downstream water users. Addressing chemically or environmentally degraded AMLs effectively requires a set of standardized techniques that can be modified for site-specific use and also over time as new best-practice methods are developed.

The Sierra Fund’s third bi-annual conference, Reclaiming the Sierra 2015: The New Gold Rush, will devote an entire conference track to examining the Best Available Techniques for Mine Impacted Lands (BATMIL). BATMILs represent state of the art options for abating contaminants in the environment. Best Available Techniques should be considered when addressing AMLs during mine site assessment, remediation, and post-remediation effectiveness evaluation.

State and federal agencies as well as local governments and organizations will benefit from having a clear set of best practices that can be adapted to address the estimated 47,000 AMLs in California. BATMILs for mine assessment include techniques for assessment that includes the use of any historical data on the operations that might inform the analysis. BATMILS for remediation activities at abandoned mines place an emphasis on water quality and take into consideration cost, availability, and indirect harm associated with transport of contaminants off site. Post-remediation BATMILs include regulatory criteria intended to assess BATMILs employed for assessment and remediation over time to determine if they represent best practices using an adaptive management approach. Performance measure-based BATMILs can be used by independent auditors to inform reclamation permits

The Best Available Techniques for Mine Impacted Lands track, facilitated by Dr. Kendra Zamzow of the Center for Science in Public Participation, will bring together technical experts from a variety of fields to assess the forward thinking options currently available for addressing the impacts of legacy mine operations. Technical presentations in this track will be made by Dr. Andrea Foster of the United States Geological Survey, Jacob Fleck of the United States Geological Survey, Michelle Wood of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Dr. David Chambers of the Center for Science in Public Participation. Featured BATMILs that they will present on include methods for arsenic characterization, techniques to reduce mercury in aquatic environments and standards for responsible mine reclamation.