Since 1978, more than 2.8 million acres of mined lands have been restored for wildlife areas and wetlands, recreation areas, economic development parks, farms, golf courses, and other uses beneficial to the local community.
At all U.S. mining operations, detailed plans for how land will be restored after use must be approved by government officials before mining begins. Reclamation bonds are posted by mining companies to ensure successful completion of the process. Reclamation includes the following steps: contouring of land; placement of topsoil or an approved substitute on the graded area; reseeding with native vegetation, crops and/or trees; and years of careful monitoring to assure success.
As surface mines are developed, the topsoil is saved as the dirt and rock covering the mineral-bearing ore is removed. That topsoil is then used for reclaiming mined areas, so that native trees and grasses can be replanted and thrive. Humid areas with gentle topography are the easiest to restore and revegetate, but special techniques have been developed for use in arid, mountainous and arctic regions. Care is taken to minimize erosion and runoff where ground cover is temporarily removed. Special flood-control and sediment-control measures are taken to prevent damage.
Although underground mines do not have as much surface disruption, they do have reclamation responsibilities for stabilizing tailings ponds while mining and reclaiming the area when mining is completed. Any surface subsidence must also be accounted for and included in mining plans.
Surface and groundwater are always protected from drainage and metal components higher than the ambient water levels.
Mining companies know that continuous improvement is an important part of reclamation, constantly innovating, seeking and utilizing better methods to reclaim mined lands.