Water Resource Collections and Archives


San Francisco Bay Fund Inventory of Projects

San Francisco Bay Fund Inventory of Projects

Developing a Methodology for Clean Up of Abandoned Mines Project

Organization: Sustainable Conservation
2008 Grant Recipient – Contra Costa County

Project Background

In June 2007, in an effort to advance implementation of the Good Samaritan Initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released interim guidance and a model agreement designed to remove legal liabilities and regulatory constraints that discouraged the voluntary cleanup of abandoned mines.

California's Department of Conservation estimates that more than 47,000 abandoned mines exist in California, and more than 5,000 present environmental hazards. Of these, approximately 900 are located within the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Approximately 67% of the abandoned mines in California occur on federal lands, while 31% occur on private lands.

While "acid mine drainage" from these mines pollutes creeks and rivers, degrades drinking water, and can harm and kill fish and wildlife, the mining industry has not addressed these "legacy mines." Only a fraction of these sites will ever be formally cleaned up by government given existing staffing and funding levels at state and federal agencies. If organizations not responsible for the development or operation of abandoned mines wish to clean them up voluntarily, then the guidance and model agreement released by the EPA and DOJ provide these Good Samaritans with some important tools needed to do the job. Funding for the work presents another challenge entirely.

For additional Supporting Documents, refer to the Sustainable Conservation website at: Abandoned Mines.

Quick Links

Project Photos

Marsh Creek Reservoir with Mt. Diablo beyond. Photograph furnished by the County of Contra Costa.

This map (above) and this aerial picture (below) of the Mt. Diablo Mercury Mine were prepared by the County of Contra Costa.

Two views of the main seep at the Mt. Diablo Mercury Mine from across the settling pond. Above, the mine as it appeared in 1994 from the archives of R.W. Graymer, D.L. Jones, and E.E. Brabb; USGS Open-File Report 94-622.

The mine as it appeared on 31 July 2008 courtesy of John Hillenbrand, US EPA. Hazardous waste seeps from the San Francisco Bay Area's Mt. Diablo Mercury Mine.

Last modified: 7/26/2012 6:43 PM by S. Haren

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