New Mexico eligible for $2.4 million for clean up of abandoned mines

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Monday that New Mexico is eligible for approximately $2.4 million in federal funding through the abandoned mine land section of a bipartisan infrastructure package that was signed into law in November. This funding is intended to help create jobs and economic opportunities for areas that have been dependent on coal mining. The law allocates a total of $11.3 billion for the Abandoned Mine Land program over 15 years and Monday’s announcement included $725 million of available funding for states, as well as Navajo Nation, during the federal Fiscal Year 2022. Federal fiscal years start on Oct. 1 and end on Sept.

State seeks to reduce risk of abandoned mines

Last year in the area near Orogrande in Otero County, a motorcyclist was killed when he ended up in an abandoned mine, according to Jerry Schoeppner, the Mining and Minerals Division director for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Abandoned hard rock mine sites throughout the state can create dangerous conditions for people and the environment, but the funding that the Mining and Minerals Division relies on to clean up these sites is limited and will expire in September. Additionally, the state does not know exactly how many mines are located in New Mexico. Schoeppner is hopeful that the funding will be reauthorized and that New Mexico could even possibly see an increase in funding. 

A $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill introduced in Congress this week would, if passed, ensure funding for the mine cleanup for the next 15 years. Additionally, it would provide the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund with about $11.3 billion, which would be divided between states and tribal nations.

Supreme Court denies NM’s Gold King Mine petition against Colorado

The U.S. Supreme Court denied New Mexico’s petition to hold Colorado responsible for the 2015 Gold King Mine spill Monday, on the court’s last day in session this term. While conducting exploratory cleanup work of an abandoned mine in southwestern Colorado, federal contractors caused 3 million gallons of wastewater to spill from the Gold King Mine. The mine, like hundreds of others in the area, was owned by a private company before being abandoned. The Supreme Court decision to not hear the case was the latest blow to New Mexico’s attempts to hold someone responsible for the spill into the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose contractors caused the breach, said that under the Federal Tort Claims Act it was not legally able to pay the claims of economic damages caused by the 2015 spill.