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Mine Reclamation

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What’s on this page:

What is mine reclamation?

At its core, reclamation is an effort to restore harm done to a mined land’s soil health and prepare the land for another use after mining activities cease. Reclamation is ideally a two-part process undertaken from the moment mining activity begins: first minimizing negative environmental effects during mining and, at its conclusion, restoring land to a beneficial end use, such as open land, wildlife habitat, agriculture, residential/commercial use, etc. From a technical perspective, reclamation activities likely include efforts to “clean-up” the damaged landscape such as acid rock drainage management, efforts to control erosion and sedimentation, construction of tailings covers, revegetation, soil decontamination and topsoil replacement, and water treatment. While these technical aspects are needed, there is some research suggesting a more holistic, inclusive approach which aims to reframe reclamation as an “ongoing, creative process of community healing” emphasizing public participation and environmental justice concerns (Rethinking remediation).

This wiki serves to collect projects, methods, research, and questions related to mine reclamation. Help this resource grow by editing this page here!

Follow mine reclamation

Community stories and projects

Public Lab community projects related to mine reclamation will appear here

Title Updated Version Views Likes
The Mountains and Mines Monitoring Project about 1 year ago by stevie 12 3,776 3
The Sand Sentinel Program over 2 years ago by stevie 24 3,536 2

More stories related to mine reclamation

Questions about mine reclamation

Questions tagged with question:mine-reclamation will appear here

Methods and activities on monitoring reclamation

Photo documentation

Kinds of data produced: Visual records of observable reclamation permit violations / compliance, or reclamation progress.

Examples of permit violations are explained in these posts:


Aerial photography and videography

Photography combined with Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to monitor plant growth over time on reclaimed land

Reviewing public records to detect violations

Kinds of data produced: Possible reporting violations by mine operators: missing or unexpected data, repeated limit violations. These can be reported to a state agency (source: Appalachian Water Watch Citizen Monitoring Manual)


Reviewing Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs)

Water quality testing

Kinds of data produced: Measurements of water pH, conductivity, and other parameters. Discharge and runoff from active mining can negatively impact these water quality indicators, while reclamation activities might improve them.

Water quality data that you collect can potentially be compared with data reported on Discharge Monitoring Reports (source: Appalachian Water Watch Citizen Monitoring Manual), and compared with relevant regulatory standards.


Identifying sites for water quality testing

Measuring water pH

pH values indicate how acidic (low pH) or alkaline (high pH) the water is. The US EPA sets its freshwater pH standard between 6.5 and 9. Drainage from mines can be acidic or alkaline depending on what minerals the water interacts with as it flows through the mining site.

Note that one study in a Mid-Appalachian watershed found that while other water quality indicators improved after reclamation, pH did not:

“...acid mine drainage was still the dominant factor leading to the overall poor water quality (low pH, high sulfate and metals) in the watershed after reclamation was completed more than 20 years ago.” Wei et al. 2010

Measuring water conductivity

Water that has more inorganic solids dissolved in it (like salts, metals, or other chemical pollutants) generally conducts an electrical current better---it has a higher conductivity. Water downstream of mining activity could occasionally have higher conductivity due to dissolved solids from discharges.

Monitoring soil health

Kinds of data produced: Measurements of soil pH, heavy metal concentrations, activity of microbial and other biological life, other indicators of soil health. Similar to impacts on water quality, mining activity and reclamation can affect these soil health indicators.


The soil contamination wiki at is where we’ve collected and organized information on soil contaminants and testing methods. Below are some resources that might be particularly useful in monitoring or evaluating mine reclamation.


Activities tagged with activity:mine-reclamation will appear here

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Regulations on mine reclamation


Environmental & Health Concerns

There are numerous environmental concerns related to the mine reclamation process and abandoned mines, including:

  • Sustaining plant vitality
  • Soil degradation
  • Soil erosion
  • Invasive species
  • Groundwater seepage
  • Mobilized heavy metals
  • Loss of carbon sequestration

The above environmental problems also lead to numerous human health concerns and things to be on the look out for:

  • Heavy metal leaching
  • Groundwater and surface water quality (especially if local drinking water uses these resources)
  • Flocculating agents used in mining and reclamation process

Further reading and resources

Wikis related to mine reclamation

Title Updated Version Views Likes
Mine Reclamation 11 months ago by laurel_mire 15 179 0
Evaluating the Success of Mine Reclamation about 1 year ago by laurel_mire 31 395 0
Observable water quality violations related to frac sand mining almost 4 years ago by stevie 8 208 1
Frac Sand Advocacy Leverage Points over 4 years ago by stevie 35 521 0
Building a Frac Sand Economic Assessment almost 6 years ago by gretchengehrke 5 310 1
Butte, Montana: Centerville Neighborhood almost 12 years ago by Olivia 1 255 2

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