Mining and Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) in Region 8
Region 8 Mining Contacts
Hard-rock mining in the western United States has created a multitude of environmental problems. Subsurface drainage and surface runoff from mine sites has negatively impacted water quality in streams throughout the states comprising Region 8. While cleanup of sites is a high priority for the EPA, the sheer number and geographic distribution of these areas make remediation a formidable task.
On this page:
- Mining in Region 8
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Projects
- Wastewater Discharge (NPDES) Permits for Mining Operations
- Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permits for Mining Operations
- Mine Site Cleanup
- Rare earth development in Region 8
- Mining Documents
- Region 8 Mining Team
EPA's Mining Work in Region 8
- Review and/or preparation of Environmental Impact Statements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
- Permitting and compliance for waste water discharge to surface water under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
- Permitting and compliance for for waste water and stormwater discharges to surface water under the Safe Drinking Water Act and Underground Injection Control (UIC) program
- Review of wetlands dredge and fill permits under the CWA
- Reporting Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)
- Mine site assessment and cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for Mining Operations
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider potential environmental impacts before taking major actions, such as issuing permits or making decisions that affect federal lands. If significant impacts are likely, the agency must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). EPA has two roles under NEPA: 1- to review EISs on proposed federal agency actions and prepare written comments and 2- to comply with NEPA by writing Environmental Assessments or EISs for certain EPA actions.
Wastewater Discharge (NPDES) Permits for Mining Operations
EPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program permits for discharge of wastewater for all facilities in the Region. NPDES Permits issued by Region 8 for mining sites can be found on the Region 8 NPDES website.
Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permits for Mining Operations
EPA issues UIC permits for the discharge of waste water to ground water via UIC wells.
UIC Class III permits are issued by Region 8 for mining sites.
EPA conducts and supervises investigation and cleanup actions at a variety of mine sites where hazardous substances have been released into the environment or when there is a threat of such releases of these substances. Cleanups may be done by EPA, other federal agencies, states or municipalities, or the company or party responsible for the contamination. Long-term (remedial) and short-term (removal) cleanup actions occur under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). CERCLA is also known as Superfund. Cleanup may also refer to the reuse and redevelopment of sites, such as under the Brownfields initiative whereby abandoned or under-used industrial sites are cleaned of environmental contamination and reclaimed for productive use.
Additional information on how mining impacts land in the west is provided in Region 8's 1995 EPA document 908-F-95-002: Historic Hard-Rock Mining: the West's Toxic Legacy (PDF, 4 pp, 1.7MB)
Rare Earth Elements in Region 8
Information on rare earth element development in Region 8 can be found in Investigating Rare Earth Element Mine Development in EPA Region 8 and Potential Environmental Impacts (PDF, 35 pp, 5.4MB), August 15, 2011, EPA Document 908R11003.
- Region 8 Mining Team Strategy (PDF, 1 pg, 18K)
- Investigating Rare Earth Element Mine Development in EPA Region 8 and Potential Environmental Impacts (PDF, 35 pp, 5,2MB)
- Abandoned Mine Site Characterization & Cleanup Handbook (PDF, 129 pp, 1.3MB)
- EPA and Hardrock Mining: a Source Book for Industry in the Northwest and Alaska (PDF, 64 pp, 675K)
Region 8 Mining Team
Regional Mining Engineer
USEPA R8, EPR-S
1595 Wynkoop St
Denver, CO 80202-1129
Technical Support (NOWCC Grant)