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Photo of Impoundment

Impoundments and dams are an integral part of mining. Dams are used to impound waste, store water for mine use, control runoff to prevent flooding of mine facilities, and collect and prevent sediment from running off the mine property. The impounded material, be it water or liquid-borne solid waste, can present a hazard to miners if the dam were to fail. Therefore, dams used in mining must be designed, constructed, and operated in a safe manner.

Through proper engineering, construction, and operation; effective inspection; and appropriate emergency action planning, the mining industry can ensure that dams on mine property are safe. The goal of MSHA’s Dam Safety Program is to help ensure the safety of the numerous dams constructed and operated by the mining industry. To accomplish this goal, MSHA reviews and approves engineering design plans for dams at coal operations, inspects dams, investigates construction and operation issues, and conducts training in dam safety. MSHA's standards for dams at both coal mines (30 CFR Part 77) and metal and nonmetal mines (30 CFR Parts 56 and 57) are linked below.

MSHA lists approximately 2,000 dams in its dam inventory. Of this total, over 400 dams are classified as having a "high hazard potential" rating, meaning that in the event of dam failure, loss of human life is likely. Because of the consequences of failure, high hazard potential dams are designed to withstand extreme precipitation and earthquake events.

This page is intended to provide information on dam safety to mine operators, dam designers, dam inspectors, and State and Federal regulators.

  • Dam Safety Program Contacts
  • Dams Regulated by MSHA
  • Dam Hazard Potential Classification
  • Facility Configuration and Construction Method
  • Dam Safety Standards and Technical Guidance
  • Other Dam Safety Resources