Due Diligence for the Acquisition of Mine-Scarred Lands

In California’s Gold Country, governments and nonprofits alike have used public funds to acquire mining-impacted lands for conservation and recreation without recognizing the physical and chemical hazards associated with the land’s historical use.

Historic photo of operations at Champion Mine.


TSF has worked with the property owner, a cultural anthropologist, scientists from the US EPA, local tribal leaders and an environmental engineering firm to evaluate the legacy Champion and Providence Mine sites in the Deer Creek watershed.

Informed by historical documentation of where mining features were located, soil samples were collected to assess the level of heavy metals commonly associated with mining operations. In addition, a cultural assessment was conducted to uncover historical artifacts, including those from early mining operations and from the pre-mining era when the original people inhabited and stewarded the land.

Soil sampling activities conducted by TSF, US EPA and contractors at Champion Mine in 2016.


TSF is creating an assessment protocol to outline best practices for appropriate due diligence prior to acquiring mine-scarred lands using public funds. The property appraisal should be informed by the assessment, as the discovery of physical or chemical hazards associated with abandoned mines will impact market value. The purchase agreement should minimize liability of the new owner for existing toxic materials on the site.

Next Steps

TSF plans to conduct due diligence trainings to bring this new material to key state and local decision makers. The goals of the training include: educating government agencies that fund land acquisition projects; informing agencies seeking funding for acquisition projects; minimizing liability of agencies purchasing land for conservation; and promoting safe recreation for the public accessing these lands post-acquisition.

See Also:

Malakoff Diggins – Where The Sierra Fund has spearheaded the science for the restoration of one of the largest and most iconic hydraulic mines in the Sierra.