Kelly, Lummis Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines

Today, Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced the Legacy Mine Clean Up Act 2024—bipartisan legislation to hold the federal government accountable for improving the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines that endanger the health and safety of Arizona communities.  

Kelly and Lummis’ bill would establish the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains (OMDP) to help accelerate cleanup of abandoned mine sites by implementing best practices, improving coordination with state and tribal partners, and maintaining a list of mine sites to prioritize for superfund cleanup.   

“Abandoned hardrock mines pose serious environmental and public health threats to Arizona communities and tribal nations, but the cleanup of these hazardous sites is too often delayed,” said Kelly. “By cutting red tape, creating greater accountability, and improving the coordination of local, state, and federal partners, our bill will accelerate the cleanup of abandoned mines.” 

“In order to preserve Wyoming and the west’s iconic landscapes, we need to abandon the federal government’s one-size-fits-all approach and adopt region-specific solutions to preserve our western way of life. I am proud to partner with Senator Kelly to codify the Trump administration’s Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains to forge relationships with states, tribes and localities to better support our unique ecosystems,” said Lummis.  

“The establishment of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains, coupled with mandated regular and thorough reporting to congressional committees, is essential to ensuring that the federal government upholds its obligations to address the long-standing contamination and associated health concerns of the Navajo Nation stemming from these AUMs [abandoned uranium mines],” wrote Navajo Nation President Dr. Buu Nygren in a letter of support.  

“While mining is integral to the global economy, long-abandoned hardrock mines that predate modern regulations leave a legacy of environmental harm and public health and safety dangers. In Arizona alone, there are an estimated 100,000 abandoned mine features scarring the landscape. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has remediated many abandoned mines, but given the scope, we cannot solve the problem alone. This legislation broadens our ability to collaborate with federal agencies, industry, nonprofits, and others to protect the residents of Arizona and the environment from the impacts of these old mines,” said Karen Peters, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Cabinet Executive Officer.  

“Abandoned mines, some dating back to the 19th century, continue to drain toxic heavy metals into our waterways, and existing law makes it extremely difficult to clean them up,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We applaud the introduction of the ‘Legacy Mine Clean Up Act 2024’ which would authorize the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains at the Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up abandoned hard rock mines and improve water quality—benefiting both communities’ water supplies, as well as fish and wildlife populations.” 

“Abandoned hard rock mines are the largest source of water pollution in the western United States. The Legacy Mine Clean Up Act 2024 will facilitate clean-up of these mines and leverage the expertise and resources of state and federal agencies, Tribal Nations and Good Samaritans such as Trout Unlimited,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “We appreciate Senator Kelly and Senator Lummis for their leadership and look forward to working with them to advance this legislation, as well as pass Good Samaritan legislation so that we can get to work making the nation’s waters more swimmable, fishable, and drinkable.” 

“The legacy of abandoned mines has drastically impacted our public lands and waters, contaminating an estimated 40% of western watersheds. Healthy fish and wildlife habitat is critical for hunters and anglers to pursue our sporting traditions. We applaud Senators Kelly and Lummis for their leadership on the Legacy Mine Clean Up Act 2024, which would improve coordination, provide assistance, and prioritize the cleanup of abandoned mines through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains,” said Kaden McArthur, government relations manager, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers


The Government Accountability Office estimates there are at least 140,000 abandoned hardrock mines in the United States, largely in the western United States. This includes more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Abandoned hardrock mines jeopardize the health and well-being of nearby communities through environmental hazards like acid mine drainage, chemical releases, and surface and groundwater contamination.  

In 2022, Kelly helped pass the ADVANCE Act, which directed funding to the Environmental Protection Agency for the cleanup of abandoned mine sites on Tribal land. Previously, Kelly worked to secure funding for the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, championed legislation to support innovative paths to the cleanup of abandoned mine sites, and raised these issues with administration officials repeatedly.

Click here to read the bill text.