Abandoned Mine Initiative

Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendi) is one of nine bat species that
use the Montana mine in Ruby, AZ.
Photo: Brian Corbett

Peppered across the entire continent, the estimated 500,000 abandoned mines throughout the United States present many potent dangers to human health and the environment. In recent years, state and federal government agencies have been ramping up reclamation and closure of these potential hazards.

The vast majority of these lands no longer serve their original function as a source of ore or minerals. Often in very remote places, removed from disturbance and in the midst of abundant other natural resources, some of these abandoned mines have become important habitat for bats as they seek refuge from encroachment by human development or other intrusions elsewhere. The Montana mine in the ghost town of Ruby, Arizona, for example, is used by nine species of bats year round.

Yet many government and private entities lack the resources necessary to effectively address or confirm the presence of bats in mines. This results in closure plans that may jeopardize bat species by destroying the habitat, or worse, inadvertently entombing a colony inside.

A cupola covers an exposed mine shaft.
Photo: Shawn Thomas / Bat Conservation International

BCI’s SubT team works closely with federal, state and private land managers to identify and evaluate potential bat roosting sites. On average, team members spend two weeks of each month in the field working with agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Defense, Forest Service, and state mining and minerals offices, conducting biological surveys and mapping underground areas.

Evidence of bat presence identified through SubT assessments—including ceiling stains, guano, insect remains and roosting bats themselves—enables partners to pursue viable management plans for each site. One of the most effective strategies for preserving quality bat habitat is the installation of steel bat gates and cupolas, which allows bats access to the mine, keeps people out, and eliminates the need to seal off or destroy the mine itself.

Since its inception in 2008, the SubT team has surveyed over 5,000 mine features and 400 natural caves as part of its Abandoned Mine Initiative. Of these, BCI has recommended or assisted with the installation of bat compatible closure at nearly a thousand abandoned mines, ensuring their availability for bats for many years to come.

Specific operational capabilities (click) 

Operational Capabilities
The BCI Subterranean Program provides a wide range of services and technical capabilities to meet subterranean conservation goals worldwide.
  • Abandoned Mine Survey - Uranium, Coal, Hard Rock
  • Seasoned Experience, International Reach
  • Vertical Access - Shafts, declines, and winzes
  • Adits - Partially collapsed, timbered and untimbered, dry to flooded
  • Internal Mapping and Habitat Survey
  • Field Photography / Videography
  • Gating - Assistance with prioritization, design, and construction / implementation of all types of bat gates and bat-compatible closures.
  • All-Terrain Reach - Our field teams are capable of extended backcountry access, via 4WD, ATV, ski/snowshoe, and rugged off-trail travel.
  • Precision - Accurate characterization and documentation of cave and AML sites on the landscape. 
  • All-season field capability.
  • Remote Acoustic Monitoring - Soundscape and Species Diversity Analysis
  • Policy Development and Study Design
  • Management Plans - Research, Design, and Implementation
  • Mist Netting - Live capture and bat identification.
  • Radio tagging and telemetry tracking

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