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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

Poorman/Balm Creek

BLM District Vale (Oregon) BLM Field Office Baker
Congressional District Oregon 2nd AMLIS # OR035800002
State Office Contact John Barber HUC # /Subbasin 170502030404
Field Office Contact Vern Pritchard Specific Watershed Balm Creek and Slide Creek
Location Northeastern Oregon (T7S., R43E., Sec. 32, Willamette Meridian, Lat. 44.913588, Long. -117.478284)
Land Ownership BLM-administered land
Type of Site Copper Mine—Underground workings w/shafts (head frame), adits, waste and tailing piles, holding pond, and processing mill site situated next to the creek.
Estimated Cost $3,610,000
Other Agency Links Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality
Google Earth Click here for map

The site is a consolidation of several abandoned copper mines including; Poorman Workings, Balm Creek, Mother Lode, and Gilkeson with workings located in Balm Creek and Slide Creek portions of the Powder River watershed. Disturbance includes a shaft with head frame, collapsed adits and air shafts, millsite foundations, large processed tailings and waste rock piles, and a holding pond. All features are situated on public land located approximately 20 miles northeast of Baker, OR. Some of the workings are located within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Research Natural Area. The site is also in a culturally sensitive area, and BLM is working with the tribes to protect archeological values. Erosion and leaching of copper and zinc from waste piles into surface waters is affecting stream biota. Upland areas are devoid of vegetation due to low pH and high concentrations of copper and zinc. A site assessment indicated that heavy metals are present (primarily copper) in contaminated soils in the processed waste piles and holding pond.

Site characterization was conducted in phases. The first work was completed in 2000 and consisted of an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer survey of the surficial metals concentrations and collection of the low-flow surface water samples. A second round of water sampling occurred during spring runoff April 18, 2001. The final sampling occurred on June 26, 2001. Samples collected had laboratory metal analyses performed. In late October 2001, a small earthen diversion structure was built above and adjacent to the lower holding pond to eliminate spring runoff and high flows from entering the holding pond. A trench was also cut through the berm on the upper holding pond to further preclude localized runoff from entering the pond. An Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis was conducted by the BLM in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency document "Guidance on Conducting Non-Time Critical Removal Actions under CERCLA," and related public meetings were held in FY2002. Permanent remedial measures will include: building a repository for mine tailings and waste rock that are currently situated in the 100 year floodplain, removal of toxic materials, closures of shafts and adits, establishment of vegetation to reduce erosion, and closure of open shafts and adits. The project is supported by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Umatilla. Benefits will embrace elimination of physical hazards, pollution, and enhance overall improvement of the public lands. The project is currently 75 percent completed.

Mine photo
"Pond" within tailings area, deposited along Balm Creek
Mine photo
Inlet from Balm Creek into the Pond - Had high copper levels
Mine photo
Balm Creek eroding the tailings
Mine photo
Balm Creek and the "Pond"
Mine photo
Seep coming from the "Pond" and entering Balm Creek
Mine photo
Lower Poorman Site (Slide Creek)
Mine photo
Lower Poorman Site (Slide Creek)
Mine photo
Broken assay bottles, Lower Poorman Site. Had high lead levels
Mine photo
Shaft Lower Poorman Site
Mine photo
Upper Poorman Site (Slide Creek)
Mine photo
Upper Poorman Site (Slide Creek)
Mine photo
Balm Creek Site - Tailings
Mine photo
Balm Creek Site - Tailings
Mine photo
Balm Creek Site - Tailings
Mine photo
Seep from below the headframe, Balm Creek Site
Mine photo
Balm Creek Site - Tailings