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Division of Mineral Mining

Mining Impacts

Orphan Land Program History    |    Mining Impacts    |    Report an Orphan Mine

The impacts of past mining on the environment and the public’s health and safety are present in varying degrees throughout the state. These impacts are defined as follows:

  • Environmental pollution is defined as any condition, which poses existing or potential hazards to the environment. The major environmental problems associated with inactive/abandoned mine sites are stream sedimentation from unvegetated soils, acid draining tailings and waste piles, ground water degradation, and trash dumps.

  • Hazards to the public health and safety are defined as any conditions which have the potential, now or in the future, of posing a danger to the public. The major public health and safety problems associated with inactive/abandoned mine sites in Virginia are fall hazards from highwalls, shafts and other mine openings, and the unauthorized and unsupervised use of mine sites as recreational areas.

Image of orphaned mine shaft

Gold, pyrite, zinc, and copper mines in the eastern, south-central, and southwest portion of the state pose public safety hazards due to hazardous open mine shafts at many of the mines, and environmental hazards from acidic drainage, mine waste, and stream sedimentation.

See map of orphaned mineral mines »

In this same region of the state, inactive/abandoned sand and gravel mines provide potential sources of non-point and point source pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The entire state is host to hundreds of acres of denuded landscape resulting from manganese and iron mining prior to 1950. These mines continue to pose threats to state waters through increased stream sedimentation. In the western region of the state, shafts from the mining of zinc, and stream sedimentation from manganese and iron are prevalent. Across the state abandoned quarries pose numerous dangers to public health and safety. Orphaned mine sites were often used as trash dumps and/or for recreational activities. (Over 1000 PCB contaminated capacitors were found inside a plant building on one orphaned mine site). As a result, people have fallen from highwalls at old quarry sites, drowned in bodies of water left by mining operations, and suffered serious injuries while riding ATV’s and other off-road vehicles. The actual number of injuries resulting from persons frequenting the mine sites is not known due to the age of the old mines, the vast amount of past mining throughout the state, and the lack of reporting data.