Authors: Ashby, AD; van Etten, EJB

Open access courtesy of:


Cite As:
Ashby, AD & van Etten, EJB 2021, 'Exploring abandoned mines through a public lens', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & A Sharkuu (eds), Mine Closure 2021: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Mine Closure, QMC Group, Ulaanbaatar,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

Research suggests that there are potentially millions of abandoned mines around the globe. As such, it is highly probable that these operations have the potential of resulting in a magnitude of social and environmental issues. However, there is limited literature on their social impacts specifically to a local community. To explore this issue, we investigated four case studies through a literature review using a wide range of white, grey and peer-reviewed literature. We examined case studies in Australia, China, Europe, and the USA. From this preliminary review, we determined that all have a significant number of abandoned mines. We examined these Case Studies as their respective economies rely heavily on the mining industry. The terminology ‘’abandoned mines’’ is often ambiguous and potentially not well understood. Our research shines the spotlight on the problem and examines novel solutions to manage issues associated with abandoned mines. We also examine the closure requirements for abandoned mines in a broad setting, and how these operations can be successfully monitored using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Accordingly, our aim was to explore a wide range of jurisdictions and determine how local communities are affected by abandoned mine, and where UAVs technologies are commonly utilised

Alpers, CN, Myers, PA, Millsap, D, & Regnier, TB 2014, ‘Arsenic associated with historical gold mining in the Sierra Nevada foothills: case study and field trip guide for Empire Mine State Historic Park, California’. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 553-587.
Ashby, AD, van Etten, EJB & Lund, MA 2016, 'Pitfalls of gold mine sites in care and maintenance', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 313-324.
Bennett, K 2016, 'Abandoned mines — environmental, social and economic challenges', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 241-252.
Bian, Z, Hilary, II, John, DL, Otto, F, & Sue, S 2010, ‘Environmental issues from coal mining and their solutions’. Mining Science and Technology vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 215–223.
Bouse, RM, Fuller, CC, Luoma, S, Hornberger, MI, Jaffe, BE, & Smith, RE 2010, Mercury-contaminated hydraulic mining debris in San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, vol. 8 no. 1.
Cole, D 2004, ‘Exploring the sustainability of mining heritage tourism’. Journal of Sustainable Tourism vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 480–494.
Conesa, HM, Faz, Á, & Arnaldos, R 2006, ‘Heavy metal accumulation and tolerance in plants from mine tailings of the semiarid Cartagena–La Unión mining district (SE Spain)’. Science of the Total Environment, vol. 366, no. 1, pp. 1-11.
Conesa, HM, & Schulin, R 2010, ‘The Cartagena–La Unión mining district (SE Spain): a review of environmental problems and emerging phytoremediation solutions after fifteen years research’. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 1225-1233.
Conesa, HM, Schulin, R, & Nowack, B 2008, ‘Mining landscape: A cultural tourist opportunity or an environmental problem?: The study case of the Cartagena–La Unión Mining District (SE Spain)’. Ecological Economics, vol. 64, no. 4, pp. 690-700.
Deng, J 2021, ‘Application of UAV Oblique Photogrammetry in Mine Ecological Environment Restoration’. Earth and Environmental Science vol. 719, no. 4, pp. 042056
Egea-Bruno, PM 2003, La minería contemporánea en la Sierra Minera de Cartagena–La Unión. In: Rábano, I., Manteca, I., García, C. (eds.), Patrimonio Geológico y Minero y Desarrollo Regional. Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, Madrid, Spain, pp. 31–42.
United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2018, Abandoned Mine Lands: Basic Information Accessed from 09 June 2019
Government of Australia Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, 2019, Accessed from 9 June 2019
Hu, Z, Fu, Y, Xiao, W, Zhao, Y & Wei, T 2015, ‘Ecological restoration plan for abandoned underground coal mine site in Eastern China.’ International Journal of Mining, Reclamation and Environment, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 316-330.
Khademi, H, Abbaspour, A, Martínez-Martínez, S, Gabarrón, M, Shahrokh, V, Faz, A, & Acosta, JA 2018, ‘Provenance and environmental risk of windblown materials from mine tailing ponds, Murcia, Spain.’ Environmental pollution, vol. 241, pp. 432-440.
Kuenzer, C, Zhang, J, Tetzlaff, A, Van Dijk, P, Voigt, S, Mehl, H, & Wagner, W 2007, ‘Uncontrolled coal fires and their environmental impacts: Investigating two arid mining regions in north-central China’. Applied Geography, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 42-62.
Lecce, SA, & Pavlowsky, RT 2014, ‘Floodplain storage of sediment contaminated by mercury and copper from historic gold mining at Gold Hill, North Carolina, USA’. Geomorphology, vol. 206, pp. 122-132.
Li MS 2006, ‘Ecological restoration of mineland with particular reference to the metalliferous mine wasteland in China: a review of research and practice.’ Sci Tot Environ vol. 357, pp. 38–53
Mackasey W.O Abandoned Mines in Canada, WOM Geological Associates Inc., Sudbury Accessed from 09 June 2019 Ontario, 2000
McKenna, PB, Lechner, AM, Phinn, S, & Erskine, PD 2020, ‘Remote Sensing of Mine Site Rehabilitation for Ecological Outcomes: A Global Systematic Review’. Remote Sensing, vol. 12, no. 21, pp. 3535.
Mayes WM, Johnston D, Potter HA, Jarvis AP 2009 ‘A national strategy for identification, prioritisation and management of pollution from abandoned non-coal mine sites in England and Wales. I.: methodology development and initial results.’ Sci Tot Environ vol. 407, pp. 5435–5447
Marín-Guirao, L, Cesar, A, Marín, A, Lloret, J, Vita, R 2005, ‘Establishing the ecological quality status of soft-bottom mining-impacted coastal water bodies in the scope of the Water Framework Directive’. Mar. Pollut. Bull, vol. 50, pp. 374–387.
Martinez-Frias, J 1997, ‘Mine waste pollutes Mediterranean.’ Nature vol. 388, pp. 120.
Martínez-Orozco, JM, Valero-Huete, F, González-Alonso, S 1993, ‘Environmental problems and proposals to reclaim the areas affected by mining exploitations in the Cartagena mountains (southeast Spain)’. Landsc. Urban Plan, vol. 23, pp. 195–207.
Mendez, MO, Neilson, JW, & Maier, RM 2008, ‘Characterization of a bacterial community in an abandoned semiarid lead-zinc mine tailing site.’ Appl. Environ. Microbiol., vol. 74, no. 12, pp. 3899-3907.
Merkert, R, & Bushell, J 2020. ‘Managing the drone revolution: A systematic literature review into the current use of airborne drones and future strategic directions for their effective control.’ Journal of Air Transport Management, vol. 89, pp. 101929.
McCullough, CD & Lund, MA 2006, ‘Opportunities for sustainable mining pit lakes in Australia’. Mine Water and the Environment, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 220-226.
Mineral Policy Institute, 2019, Mining Legacies Accessed from 09 March 2019
Mudd, GM 2013, ‘Australia's mining legacies’. Arena Magazine (Fitzroy, Vic), vol. 124, pp. 19.
Oen, IS, Fernández, JC, Manteca, JI 1975, ‘The lead–zinc and associated ores of La Unión, Sierra de Cartagena, Spain’. Econ. Geol. Vol. 70, pp. 1259–1278.
Peltz, CD & Harley A 2016, Biochar application for abandoned mine land reclamation. in M Gua, Z He & SM Uchimiya (eds), Agricultural and environmental applications of biochar: Advances and barriers, (sssaspecpub63), pp. 325-340.
Parbhakar-Fox, AK, Edraki, M, Hardie, K, Kadletz, O, & Hall, T 2014. ‘Identification of acid rock drainage sources through mesotextural classification at abandoned mines of Croydon, Australia: implications for the rehabilitation of waste rock repositories’. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, vol. 137, pp. 11-28.
Park, S, & Choi, Y 2020, ‘Applications of unmanned aerial vehicles in mining from exploration to reclamation: A review.’ Minerals, vol. 10, no. 8, pp. 663.
Pepper, M, Roche, CP, & Mudd, GM 2014, ‘Mining legacies—Understanding life-of-mine across time and space.’ In Proceedings of the Life-of-Mine Conference, pp. 1449-1466.
Raval, S 2018, ‘Smart Sensing for Mineral Exploration through to Mine Closure’. International Journal of Georesources and Environment-IJGE (formerly Int'l J of Geohazards and Environment), vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 115-119.
Robles-Arenas, VM, Rodríguez, R, García, C, Manteca, JI, Candela, L 2006, ‘Sulphide-mining impacts in the physical environment: Sierra de Cartagena–La Unión (SE Spain) case study.’ Environ. Geol. vol. 51, pp. 47–64
Stanway, D 2016, Undermining China: towns sink after mines close. Reuters World News, August 14, 2015; retrieved from .
McKenna, PB, Lechner, AM, Phinn, S, & Erskine, PD 2020, ‘Remote Sensing of Mine Site Rehabilitation for Ecological Outcomes: A Global Systematic Review’. Remote Sensing, vol. 12, no. 21, pp. 3535.
The Hudson Institute of Mineralogy 2019, Definition of placer mining. Accessed 9 March 2019 from
Unger, C 2013. Annex to The AusIMM Abandoned Mines policy statement Abandoned Mines: an overview of current status and AusIMM members’ perspectives.
Unger, C, Lechner, AM, Glenn, V, Edraki, M, & Mulligan, DR 2012,. ‘Mapping and prioritising rehabilitation of abandoned mines in Australia’. Proceedings Life-of-Mine, pp. 259-266.
U.S. Department of the Interior. 2017, The Top 5 Mineral-Producing States. Accessed 9 March 2019 from
U.S. Department of the Interior. 2016, Mercury Contamination from Historical Gold Mining in California. Accessed 9 March 2019 from
Venkateswarlu, K, Nirola, R, Kuppusamy, S, Thavamani, P, Naidu, R, & Megharaj, M 2016, ‘Abandoned metalliferous mines: ecological impacts and potential approaches for reclamation’. Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 327-354.
Yang, Y, Li, Y, Chen, F, Zhang, S, & Hou, H 2018, ‘Regime shift and redevelopment of a mining area’s socio-ecological system under resilience thinking: a case study in Shanxi Province, China’. Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, vol. 21, pp. 2577-2598.
Zhang, L, Zhang, S, Huang, Y, Xing, A, Zhuo, Z, Sun, Z, & Huang, Y 2018, ‘Prioritizing Abandoned Mine Lands Rehabilitation: Combining Landscape Connectivity and Pattern Indices with Scenario Analysis Using Land-Use Modeling’. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, vol. 7, no. 8, pp. 305.

© Copyright 2022, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
Please direct any queries or error reports to