News.bytes Extra, Issue 596
Oro Grande Mine Remediation
The historic mining of hardrock minerals -- such as gold, lead, copper, silver, and uranium -- was a powerful incentive for exploration and settlement of California. Mineral development and furnishing supplies to miners often provided the economic base on which many remote communities, like Victorville, were established. But when ore bodies were mined out and miners left to find other new deposits, they often left behind a legacy of abandoned mines -- adits, shafts, and trenches.
A primary goal of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and
the California Department of Conservations Abandoned Mine Land Unit (DOC) is to provide the public safe experiences when visiting public lands in the Mojave Desert. The BLM and DOC have another primary goal: to assure that mining-related features and facilities abandoned on public land are remediated to minimize damage to the natural environment – while recognizing and protecting the historical importance of selected features and facilities.
BLM Geologist Jamie Livingood (left) and Rusty Gates (Recreation Supervisor) stand next to a new cupola installed over a dangerous mine shaft in the Silver Mountains. (Photo by S. White/ BLM)
Many of the mines in the Silver Mountains were constructed between the 1880s to the early 1900s, including the Oro Grande Mine. This mine -- like many around it -- can harbor hidden openings that can drop many feet down. “Rotting timbers and unstable rock formations make falls a real danger” says Jamie Livingood, Geologist at the Barstow Field Office.
The mine complex is a popular destination for outdoor recreation says Rusty Gate, Recreation Supervisor at the Barstow Field Office. Specifically, the Oro Grande mine project area is located approximately 5 miles northwest of Victorville. "There are many opportunities to ride OHV's on the extensive trail system in this area," said Gate. "We want our public to stay safe and be aware that mines are not playgrounds." More than a dozen dangerous mine features have been remediated this year in the Silver Mountains.
BLM may take temporary measures to mitigate against physical safety hazards, such as by posting warning signs and fencing. Additional remedial measures include closure of adits and shafts, backfilling of highwalls, drainage of impoundments, removal of leftover equipment and debris, and reclaiming to help offset erosion and improve stability. If during the site characterization BLM determines that remedial activities may have historical, cultural, or wildlife impacts, these must be addressed in conjunction with the remedial activities. To mitigate impacts to bats, gates and cupolas are often installed using designs that allow wildlife access to the underground.
Remember to ride safe and "Stay Out Stay Alive."