The Idaho Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act (Act) [Idaho Code 47-1703] was passed during the 1994 session in anticipation of federal mining law reform. This anticipated reform would have resulted in the states receiving money for abandoned mine reclamation from the federal government. The Act created a place for money to go, and it set certain guidelines for how the money would be spent. Federal Mining Law reform, however, never occurred, and Idaho’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund (Fund) remained empty.
In 1999 the State Legislature modified Idaho’s laws on the Mine License Tax and the Act. As a result, one-third of the State’s Mine License Tax is now diverted into the Fund. This statutory change was proposed and supported largely by the Idaho Mining Association. Idaho now has a permanent source of funding for reclaiming abandoned mines.
Responsibility for administrating the Act is given to the State Board of Land Commissioners. The agency that carries out the Land Board’s work is the Idaho Department of Lands.
In general, the Act allows the Land Board to do the following:
• Reclamation of abandoned surface, placer and underground mines, including milling and processing areas;
• Sealing of deep mine entries;
• Revegetation of affected land to prevent erosion and sedimentation;
• Prevention, abatement, treatment and control of water pollution created by abandoned mine drainage;
• Control of surface subsidence due to underground mines;
• Enter into contracts and make grants to conduct and promote research, surveys or training needed to carry out the provisions of the Act;
• Prioritize public health and safety over the restoration of land and water resources;
• Coordinate with other state and federal agencies;
• Reasonably compensate other agencies.
The Act is written such that it is a voluntary program for reclaiming abandoned mines. The definition of an abandoned mine in the Act is as follows: “A mine deserted by the operator, having no regular maintenance, and not covered by a valid mining claim.” Money from the Fund may be spent on the reclamation of any eligible mining operation. An eligible mining operation is an abandoned mine on state or federal land, or an abandoned mine on private land when the owner of the land has requested, and the Land Board has granted, designation as an eligible mine.
As a result, the Act does NOT:
• Authorize trespassing without landowner consent
• Require compensation by Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs)
In addition, the Land Board tries to address historic preservation concerns. If a site is older than fifty years, the Board will try to avoid impacts to the historical integrity of the site. If avoidance is not possible, then mitigation may be needed. The Board also tries to address endangered species concerns. This generally means bats. If work on a site will affect existing or potential bat habitat, then that work should allow continued use of the site by the bats. Bat friendly gates on mine openings is one such example.
Idaho Department of Lands has met several times with the Idaho Geological Survey, who is developing a Mines and Prospects Database for the entire state. IDL will combine this database with information from the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to create a statewide abandoned mine land database. This database will be used to more effectively plan a statewide strategy for abandoned mine reclamation. An inventory of sites on state endowment land has also been created. These sites are already being inspected to determine what potential liabilities exist on endowment land. Reclamation work on these sites was scheduled to begin in 2000.
While the databases are being completed, IDL has already started planning. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with the Forest Service and BLM to prioritize watersheds for abandoned mine reclamation. This has allowed those agencies to qualify and receive about $500,000 for AML work. Meetings have been held with other state and federal agencies in an effort to coordinate AML work and watershed prioritization.
$300,000 was deposited into the AML fund in fiscal year 2000 (July 1999 through June 2000). Some of this money was budgeted to close mines during the 2001 fiscal year and some of the funds were allowed to build up as a cushion for larger projects.
Abandoned Mine Land Accomplishments Completed or Assisted by Idaho Department of Lands
|2004||Lemhi Pass Area||Assisting the USFS in closing shafts and adits on private land in the Lemhi Pass area adjacent to Lewis and Clark Corp of Discovery Interpretive sites. See the link to our photo Gallery showcasing the Cooper Queen Mine (above).|
|2004||Near Hope, Idaho||Closure of a shaft near Hope, Idaho, on state land|
|2002||Hailey Area||9 openings secured, three by bat gates, with help from the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service|
|2002||Dewey Mine||Finish Preliminary Site Assessment with help from US Army Corps of Engineers|
|2002||Montpelier Canyon||2 bat gates placed on adits with help from US Forest Service|
|2002||Lava Hot Springs||1 shaft plugged, 1 bat gate placed on an adit with help from US Forest Service|
|2002||Panhandle National Forest||7 bat gates placed on adits with help from US Forest Service|
|2002||Luella Mine||2 bat gates placed on adits with help from Idaho Department of Fish and Game|
|2002||Abandoned Mines on Endowment Land||Inspections|
|2001||Nicholia Smelter Site||Start Preliminary Site Assessment with help from Bureau of Land Management and the
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality|
|2001||Dewey Mine||Start Preliminary Site Assessment with help from US Army Corps of Engineers|
|2001||Jericho Mine||1 bat gate placed on an adit with help from Idaho Department of Fish and Game|
|2001||Twin Knobs||1 adit closed|
|2001||Panhandle National Forest||18 openings closed, most by bat gates with help from US Forest Service|
|2001||Aldape Summit||1 bat gate placed on an adit|
|2001||Abandoned Mines on Endowment Land||Inspections|
|2000||Silver Butte / Iron Mask||5 bat gates placed on adits with help from US Forest Service|
|2000||Abandoned Mines on Endowment Land||Inspections|
|1999||Clayton Mine||1 shaft plugged and 1 bat gate placed on an adit with help from US Forest Service|
|1999||Abandoned Mines on Endowment Land||Research sites, assess priorities for inspection and begin inspections|