long after mines are shut down or abandoned, cleanup project teams must prepare for the unpredictable
From tunnel collapses to fires, mining accidents are tragically frequent. But the cleanup projects that follow the end of mining operations, even if decades later, are proving to be fraught with danger as well. While a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remediation project team excavated an abandoned gold mine last August in mountainous Colorado, USA, a portion of the mine's bedrock face broke apart and released about 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of acidic water that had been trapped in the mine into local rivers. The cleanup effort continued through the first quarter of this year. For project managers working on mine remediation initiatives, risks include the handling and disposing of toxic materials, the unpredictable nature of project sites and long project schedules (sometimes 40 years or more). The projects can be complicated by a stakeholder landscape crowded with government agencies and concerned local residents.