Mining Program

Protecting public health and restoring ecosystems by scaling up restoration of mine-impacted acres and addressing legacy mercury pollution

Legacy and Modern Mining Presents Environmental Health Threats for Sierra Communities

The magnitude of mining’s impact on the people and places of the Sierra Nevada is staggering, covering the homelands of numerous tribes, millions of acres, and impacting hundreds of lakes, rivers, wetlands, and reservoirs. Abandoned mines still threaten public health and the regional environment.

The California Gold Rush left thousands of abandoned mines that continue to present both physical and chemical hazards, and to impact forest health, water quality, and community safety. The mining and mineral-processing practices of the past were not subject to today’s environmental standards and have resulted in extensive contamination to the land and waters of California. Abandoned mines still currently present chemical hazards such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and asbestos which were used or exposed as part of the mining process.

The mining industry has a centuries-old pattern of boom and bust, and a new boom is minerals for the clean energy transition. Now, as we look for important ways to combat climate change, efforts to increase use of electricity in lieu of fossil fuels are incentivizing investment in new mining. The Sierra Fund solidly supports electrification to combat climate change and wants to ensure we keep the “clean” attached to this energy revolution.

The Sierra Fund leads solutions to clean up and prevent exposure to toxic materials and to enforce and improve state mining regulations

The Sierra Fund seeks to protect public health and restore ecosystems by continuing and expanding on our work to clean up and prevent exposure to toxic materials and to enforce and improve state mining regulations to shape future efforts. The goals are to increase the pace and scale of abandoned mine remediation, to help inform regulation for responsible mining, and to educate stakeholders impacted by mining in ways that support community and ecosystem resiliency.

person placing soil sample into a plastic bag

Our Mining Program Restores Blighted Mine Lands and Advocates for Responsible Modern Mining

Increasing the pace and scale of abandoned mine remediation in the Sierra Nevada headwaters. The Sierra Fund is developing pilot projects that model best-practices which can be scaled up throughout the region. This includes incorporating hydraulic mine remediation into forest health projects on mine-impacted public lands.

Taking lessons learned from over a decade of work in the mine-remediation space and providing resources to others to join in reversing this toxic legacy. This includes ensuring public and private landowners are equipped with the know-how and funding to plan and implement mine remediation projects.

Continuing to watchdog mining reform measures at the state level and advocating for policies and permits that protect water quality and public health from mining impacts. This includes staying abreast of advances in the field of mining, as our society moves away from fossil fuels towards electrification which requires less commonly used minerals.

Blue Point Mine
The Sierra Fund has been leading the charge to address the legacy of Gold Rush impacts on California’s headwater ecosystems. Mine-impacted lands, when left un-remediated, pose a threat to ecosystems and leach toxics into soil and water, with implications from the Sierra to the sea. We ask that the state of California and the nation stand with The Sierra Fund to recognize and remediate the lasting impacts of California’s 19th century Gold Rush.”

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