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Arizona State Mine Inspector - Year(s) in Review 2007-2018

This post was contributed by Joe Hart, Arizona Mine Inspector.

The mission of the Arizona State Mine Inspector is to:

    • Enforce the State Mining Code for the health and safety of the workers and the public in Arizona's active, inactive, and abandoned mining operations
   • Provide training to improve individual health and safety practices
   • Provide worksite evaluations that result in improved workplace health and safety conditions
   • Actively regulate and enforce the provisions of the State Mining Code relating to abandoned/inactive mine safety
  • Review and monitor all mine reclamation activities

Abandoned Mines: Promote public health and safety by identification and assessment of abandoned mines, and securing of those abandoned mines found to be a threat to the public and the environment. Works with the Bureau of Land Management to survey federally managed lands and inventory abandoned and inactive mines, and provide mine remediation. The purpose of these activities is to abate public safety risks. We work with
private entities to create resources to close the most dangerous abandoned mines.

Database consists of eight-thousand eight-hundred and seventy-one mines. (Does not include the AZMILS database of 10,000 mines compiled by Department of Mineral Resources in the 1990’s.)

From 2007 through 2018, inspectors inventoried and evaluated five-thousand, six-hundred and eleven abandoned mines. One-thousand seven-hundred and sixty-three or 28% of them require corrective actions by the mine operator(s), Nine-hundred and twenty-six corrective actions have been submitted by owners or claimants; Seven-hundred and  eighty-four mines had corrective actions completed. Of the remaining three thousand nine-hundred and one mines, one-thousand nine-hundred and sixty-five mines remain to be secured: One-thousand six-hundred and eighty-eight are on BLM land; Two-hundred and twenty-two are on State Land; Forty-three are considered Split Estate and five mines are unknown. Two-thousand seventy-eight scored 27 or higher (scale1-48) and considered significant public safety hazards.

Table 1





Prior year’s closure rates are 4% from 1993 to 1999 out of 3,098 mine surveys all secured by surveyors. From 2007 through 2018, ASMI has surveyed 5,611 features increasing the closure rate to 47%.

2010-2017 fostered a collaborative relationship with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and procured an estimated $1.2M to inventory and evaluate abandoned mines in the state of Arizona, working in partnership with the State Land Department, Arizona Game and Fish and Bat Conservation International.


As the data indicates 98% of all of injuries or fatalities occurred in unsecured mines; of the 55 reports received between 1969 and 2006, twenty-two (22) of those were injury reports and thirty-three (33) were fatalities.

Table 2

The average change since Joe took office is a decrease in death by 95% and 97% of injuries reported.

Inspections: The Arizona State Mine Inspection team regularly conducts health and safety inspections at all of Arizona's active mines. These inspections are conducted for compliance with the Arizona Mining Code, a comprehensive set of laws and rules developed for the safe operation of mines. Our deputies also investigate fatal or other serious mine-related accidents as well as complaints from employees or concerned citizens.

   • There are 438 active mines in the state of Arizona (does not include asphalt, smelters or ready mix plants)
   • Inspected 661 mines with a 93% inspection rate annually.
   • Decrease in Lost Time Incident Rate from 2007-2017. (see table)

Table 3

Education and Training: Educate and train inexperienced and experienced mine employees in safe work practices and to comply with state and federal mine safety regulations.

   • Implemented class fee in 2010 to 2018. Once subsequent budgets were confirmed via Department of Interior the fees were reduced to 2010 levels.
   • Train an average of three-thousand (3000) students annually.

Reclamation: The Reclamation Division's primary responsibility is the approval (or denial) of mined land reclamation plans submitted by all metalliferous mining units and exploration operations with surface disturbances greater than five acres on private lands. The division reviews and analyzes reclamation plans (including reclamation cost estimates), and makes recommendations for approval or denial of proposed plans. Other program responsibilities include the coordinated review and approval of reclamation plans with other state and federal land management agencies, on-site visits, and reclamation inspections to determine compliance with the Mined Land Reclamation Act and Rules.

   • Currently 218 aggregate mining sites have an approved reclamation plan through the Reclamation Division.

Miscellaneous: 2008-2017 Arizona State Mine Inspector Annual Fall Mine Safety Conference promoting safety and health in the mining industry as well as, recognizing accident free mine operations, safety professionals and best reclamation efforts of the mining industry.