Technology and engineering have helped make mining safer and cleaner for both humans and the environment. Inevitably, mineral development entails costs as well as benefits. Developing a mine is an environmental, engineering, and planning challenge that must conform to many Federal, State, and local regulations. Community collaboration, creative design, and best management practices of sustainability and biodiversity can be positive indicators for the mining industry. A better understanding of aesthetics, culture, economics, geology, climate, vegetation and wildlife, topography, historical significance, and regional land planning is important in resolving land-use issues and managing mineral resources wisely. Ultimately, the consuming public makes choices about product use (including water, food, highways, housing, and thousands of other items) that influence operations of the mineral industry. Land planners, resource managers, earth scientists, designers, and public groups have a responsibility to consider sound scientific information, society's needs, and community appeals in making smart decisions concerning resource use and how complex landscapes should change.
An effort to provide comprehensive geosciences data for land management agencies in central Colorado was undertaken in 2003 by scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Colorado Geological Survey. This effort, the Central Colorado Assessment Project, addressed a variety of land-use issues: an understanding of the availability of industrial and metallic rocks and minerals, the geochemical and environmental effects of historic mining activity on surface water and groundwater, and the geologic controls on the availability and quality of groundwater.
The USDA Forest Service and other land management agencies have the opportunity to contribute to the sustainable management of natural aggregate and other mineral resources through the identification and selective development of mineral resources and the reclamation of mines on lands that they administer. The information in this Circular will help them carry out that task.