The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Defense-Related Uranium Mines (DRUM) program is a partnership between DOE, federal land management agencies, state abandoned mine lands (AML) programs, and tribal governments to verify and validate the condition of a unique set of abandoned uranium mines. These mines provided uranium ore to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for defense-related activities.
Most mines are located on public land and are abandoned. Initiated in 2017, DRUM Campaign 1 focuses on approximately 2,500 legacy mines located on public land administered by federal and state agencies. Campaign 2 is scheduled to commence fieldwork in fiscal year 2022 and will assess DRUM sites on tribal land. Campaign 3 will assess DRUM sites on private property and is scheduled to begin fieldwork in 2024. The DOE Office of Legacy Management implements the program by conducting verification and validation (V&V) activities, including:
- Exchanging information with other federal agencies and state governments to improve the quality of mine-specific data.
- Performing field inventories to document the condition of the mines.
- Conducting gamma surveys, soil sampling, and water sampling (as applicable), as well as collecting multiple lines of evidence to help evaluate hazards posed by the mines.
- Producing mine-specific reports that offer inventory results, as well as evaluations of physical hazards and potential chemical and radiological risks.
Ultimately, these V&V activities will result in preliminary risk screening to assess whether the mines pose potential risks to human health and the environment. This information will be shared with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service, and state and tribal governments to help them make decisions about how to address mines that pose the greatest risks.
Program Development And Progress
Acting upon the findings of the 2014 Report to Congress, DOE initiated the DRUM program in 2017 and by July 2017, DOE had developed numerous program documents and initiated field V&V efforts. The various documents provide the structure and basis for DOE to manage the V&V process of approximately 4,225 mines across 19 states. DOE obtained its authority for the program under Section 3151 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. The act mandated that DOE conduct a review of the location, status, and risks posed by abandoned uranium mines and consult with other federal agencies during the process. The following shows the location of DRUM sites and our progress to date.
The DRUM program developed and maintains numerous documents from which it identifies objectives, strategies and the methods used to achieve these objectives. This approach instills consistency in data quality and confidence in the information from which management decisions can be made. The following program documents are utilized and updated annually.
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Program Fact Sheet (September 2021)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Mine Safeguarding Program Management Plan (May 2021)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Program Verification and Validation Work Plan (2021)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Risk Screening Process (2020)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Program Midyear Progress Report (January 1, 2021-June 30, 2021)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Annual Report (January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Program Management Plan (2020 - 2030)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Program Strategic Plan (2020 – 2030)
- Defense-Related Uranium Mines Report to Congress (August 2014)
Safeguarding Physical Hazards
The DRUM Program has completed a substantial number of verification and validation evaluations at mines located on public land in the western United States. Analysis of the information gleaned from these on-site evaluations indicates that approximately 60% of the mines contained physical hazards. These physical hazards are primarily attributed to unprotected open mine entries, subsidence features, or dangerous highwalls. In order to protect the health and safety of members of the public who may encounter these features, DOE is collaborating with its partner agencies to safeguard these hazardous mine features.
Recently, the DRUM Program expanded its capacity to assist federal land managers with safeguarding efforts. This included: 1) adding safeguarding activities to existing state agreements, 2) completing a cooperative agreement with a private organization that does mine closures, and 3) developing an administrative categorical exclusion to comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) responsibilities. To aid in the efficient closure of hazardous features, specific closure methods are recommended using state-approved engineer drawings to safeguard construction bids. Ultimately, the DRUM Program is working with its partner agencies as one government to achieve this mission of safeguarding for public and environmental protection.
In fall 2019, BLM, in cooperation with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program, safeguarded hazardous features on DRUM sites in Red and Fry Canyons, Utah (60 features), with additional safeguards constructed at White Canyon and Deer Flat (83 features) and Buckmaster Draw, Utah (50 features), in 2020.
In fall 2020, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) – Inactive Mine Reclamation Program, completed an abandoned uranium mine safeguard project in the Long Park mining district (26 features) in Montrose County, Colorado. In this case, the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office concurred with the DRUM hazard evaluation and supported the DRMS safeguard construction project. The DRMS also completed safeguarding projects at Klondike Basin (20 features) and Bald Eagle (20 features) in coordination with the BLM Tres Rios Field Office.
DOE is in its second year of safeguarding hazardous features identified at DRUM sites. These safeguarding efforts are completed in cooperation with various federal, state, and nonprofit partners throughout Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. In 2020, DOE safeguarded 161 hazardous DRUM features, and will safeguard 156 hazards in 2021 for a combined 317 features by the end of this year. In future collaboration with our partners, DOE anticipates safeguarding an additional 300 hazardous features per year at DRUM sites.
As seen below, before and after pictures illustrate different approaches to safeguarding mines. Completion of these safeguards illustrates the DRUM Program’s commitment to protecting human health and the environment.
During the 2021 field season, DRUM field teams will be conducting site V&V activities in Colorado and Utah at mines identified on the maps below. V&V activities conducted by the field teams include improving the quality of information about mine locations, identifying associated mine features and surrounding characteristics and conditions, collecting additional data to enable environmental sampling, and assessing physical safety hazards.
During the field season, the public may see our four-person teams either hiking or using Off-Highway Vehicles and Utility Terrain Vehicles on designated roads. The teams minimize their impact to natural resources and avoid disturbing any potential cultural resources and sensitive wildlife and plants.
Abandoned Uranium Mines Working Group
As part of our commitment to work with other federal agencies, LM participates in the Abandoned Uranium Mines Working Group (AUMWG). AUMWG is a consortium of federal agencies working together to address the human health, safety, and environmental challenges posed by the nation's abandoned uranium mines. By marshaling and leveraging the resources of multiple federal agencies, the group works with states and tribes to identify and address high-priority mines in an effective and coordinated manner.
To submit information, questions, and comments:
Legacy Management Support Public Affairs
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management
11035 Dover Street, Suite 600
Westminster, CO 80021