Review: Abandoned mines as a resource or liability for wildlife

Alejandro Grajal-Puche, Erin M. Driver, Catherine R. Propper

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Abandoned Mine Lands (AMLs) are areas where previous mineral extraction or processing has occurred. Hundreds of thousands of AMLs exist within the United States. Contaminated runoff from AMLs can negatively affect the physiology and ecology of surrounding terrestrial and aquatic habitats and species and can be detrimental to human health. As a response, several U.S. federal and state agencies have launched programs to assess health risks associated with AMLs. In some cases, however, AMLs may be beneficial to specific wildlife taxa. There is a relative paucity of studies investigating the physiological and ecological impacts of AMLs on wildlife. We conducted a systematic review examining published scientific articles that assessed the negative and positive impacts of AMLs across invertebrate and vertebrate taxa. We also offer suggestions on evaluating AMLs to develop effective mitigation strategies that reduce their negative tole on human and wildlife communities. Peer-reviewed publications were screened across WebofScience, PubMed and Google Scholar databases. Abandoned mine lands were generally detrimental to wildlife, with adverse effects ranging from bioaccumulation of heavy metals to decreased ecological fitness. Conversely, AMLs were an overall benefit to imperiled bat populations and could serve as tools for conservation. Studies were unevenly distributed across different wildlife taxa groups, echoing the necessity for additional taxonomically diverse research. We suggest that standardized wildlife survey methods be used to assess how different species utilize AMLs. Federal and state agencies can use these surveys to establish effective remediation plans for individual AML sites and minimize the risks to both wildlife and humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number171017
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 15 2024


  • Aquatic invertebrates
  • Bats
  • Biodiversity
  • Mine reclamation
  • Vertebrates
  • Wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Review: Abandoned mines as a resource or liability for wildlife'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this