Mineral exploration and mining operators have taken big steps to reclaim part of their footprints as they work under both Nevada state and U.S. federal regulations. These days they can even bee seen using drones to improve the restoration of mined properties.
“Overall, my impression is that mines are doing a really good job. They are doing better all the time,” said Brian Amme, deputy state U.S. Bureau of Land Management director for minerals, who recalled that 30 years ago companies were eager to get to the gold and reclaim later.
“Now, mines want to be good neighbors with their communities. They realize reclamation is a win-win for everyone,” he said. “They build the reclamation ethos into their business model. In my view, that’s great.”
Todd Process, reclamation supervisor for the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Mining Regulation and Reclamation, said one of the biggest changes he has seen in his 17 years with the bureau is “that all parties consider in advance on the effectiveness of the reclamation methods and the cost of the mine’s closure before the new mine is even approved with a reclamation permit.”
For instance, SSR Mining’s Marigold Mine near Valmy, Nevada aims to “conduct reclamation whenever a facility becomes obsolete. Approximately 12 percent of the disturbed acres have been fully reclaimed,” said the mine general manager, Duane Peck. “To date approximately 450 acres of disturbance has been fully reclaimed.”
Rehabilitation of waste rock and tailings facilities provides a sustaining ecosystem using native species for revegetation. Deer, antelope and other wildlife in the area are often seen in the restored environment around the mine, he said.
Along with obtaining permits, companies must post bonds to cover reclamation of their proposed exploration projects and mines in case the companies fail, and the state or federal government must take over closure of a mine.
The bonds also provide the incentive for mining companies to do the reclamation work and receive a refund, Amme said.
Photo of deer at the restored Marigold Mine courtesy of SSR Mining.