Romney Cosponsors Legislation to Remove Hurdles to Clean Up Abandoned Hardrock Mines

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) joined Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jim Risch (R-ID) as a cosponsor of the bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act. This bipartisan legislation would make it easier for “Good Samaritans,” such as state agencies, local governments, nonprofits, and other groups, to clean up and improve water quality in and around abandoned hardrock mines.

“Utah’s rich mining legacy has made it a leader in copper and uranium production and has allowed our state to make significant contributions to the national production of silver and coal,” Senator Romney said. “However, one consequence of this production—especially from actions taken decades ago—is that thousands of mines throughout Utah have been left abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Leaving these abandoned mines open could present a threat to drinking water and recreational safety, but federal regulations make it burdensome for the state and private sector to properly clean and seal them. This legislation would allow well-meaning organizations to care for these abandoned mines, without being subject to stringent federal regulations.”

“The Utah Mining Association commends Senator Romney for co-sponsoring the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2023. This important bipartisan legislation allows modern mine operators to utilize their expertise and technological innovations to remediate long-abandoned mines in conjunction with conservation and community groups without fear of additional liability.  This commonsense legislation is a win for the environment and community engagement, especially in a state like Utah which has both significant historic mining operations and a world-class modern mining industry committed to environmental protection and good corporate citizenship,” said Utah Mining Association President Brian Somers.


The U.S. has more than 140,000 abandoned hardrock mine features, of which 22,500 pose environmental hazards according to the GAO. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the number of abandoned mines on BLM lands in Utah could number between 8,000 and 11,000, but no complete inventory has been conducted. Organizations that have no legal or financial responsibility to an abandoned mine—true Good Samaritans—want to volunteer to remediate some of these sites. Unfortunately, liability rules would leave these Good Samaritans legally responsible for all the pre-existing pollution from a mine, even though they had no involvement with the mine prior to cleaning it up. 

The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act creates a pilot permitting program to enable not-for-profit cleanup efforts to move forward, while ensuring Good Samaritans have the skills and resources to comply with federal oversight. This pilot program is designed for lower risk projects that will improve water and soil quality or otherwise protect human health.

The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jacky Rosen (R-NV), John Boozman (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Text of the bill can be found here.