Team Leaders: David Cates (OK DEQ) & Mark Rudolph (CDPHE)
There are more than 500,000 abandoned mine sites nationwide, all containing various volumes of solid mining waste (tailings, chat, waste rock). Many materials considered waste when initially processed may still contain recoverable mineral concentrations, including rare earth elements, given today’s advancements in mineral extraction methods and technologies. However, these remaining metal concentrations are often high enough that risks may be present for human health and the environment. Reuse of mining waste reduces the volume of residual materials at the mining site, decreasing potential exposures. However, depending on the reuse method, risks and exposures may not be decreased, just transferred to another site. In addition, there are also technical and regulatory barriers to reusing solid mining waste. Little information is available to regulators and mine site operators on reusing solid mine waste, making the technical and regulatory barriers appear more significant. This team will examine the possibilities and best management practices for environmentally safe reprocessing and reuse of chat, tailings, waste rock, and other solid mining wastes.