Background Information on the 2010 Reclamation and Sustainable Mineral Development Award Winners
The BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award highlights the component of sustainable development that relates to environmental stewardship. The award acknowledges operators with exceptional track records of meeting or exceeding Federal, State, or local reclamation requirements.
The BLM Hardrock Mineral Community Outreach and Security Award recognizes projects that highlight the economic benefits of mineral development. The award acknowledges operators that contribute to the quality of life or long-term health of their local communities. Operators are also recognized for incorporating community concerns in their development or closure plans in a creative fashion.
The BLM “Fix A Shaft Today!” (“FAST!”) Award recognizes active participation in the FAST! Campaign, which is a partnership initiative aimed at eradicating unsafe abandoned mine land features, especially open mine shafts.
2010 BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award Winner
|Hal Quinn, National Mining Association; David Brown, Greg Sweetser, and Rick Magstadt of Wyo-Ben, Inc.; and BLM Director Bob Abbey|
Wyo-Ben has been using standard reclamation practices and innovative new practices to reclaim an abandoned bentonite mine pit adjacent to its current bentonite mining operation in Greybull, located in the Big Horn Basin of north central Wyoming.
Historic mining practices at the site had depleted topsoil, which prevented vegetation from being established and, as a consequence, depriving antelope, deer, migratory birds, and Sage-grouse of forage and habitat.
Wyo-Ben was under no obligation to reclaim the site, as it was abandoned by the company more than three decades ago, prior to enactment of federal regulations governing mine closures. The site had no forage or habitat for wildlife, a lack of topsoil for establishment of vegetation, and visual resources were impaired.
To reclaim the site, Wyo-Ben used topsoil from its existing mine site to blend with the surface soil at the abandoned mine site, and a native grass seed mixture to reseed the site. Improved forage encouraged small game and migratory birds to repopulate the area. The reintroduction of native plants is also blocking the invasion of non-native species.
Wyo-Ben has been recognized by the Wyoming State Department of Environmental Quality for consistently employing sound reclamation techniques, and for regularly trying to find new and better ways to successfully reclaim disturbed areas.
Thanks to Wyo-Ben’s environmental stewardship, the abandoned mine site is returning to a healthy state, and the scenery is being restored to a condition more pleasing to recreationists.
The innovative ideas that Wyo-Ben implemented at the site can also be easily adapted for use in other areas with abandoned mine sites that are difficult to reclaim.
2010 BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award Winner
Kerber Creek Restoration Project
|Hal Quinn of the National Mining Assiciation with Matt Skarie of the Western Hardrock Watershed Team, Elizabeth Russell of Trout Unlimited, Steve Sanchez of BLM, and BLM Director Bob Abbey.|
Kerber Creek is a 19-mile waterway that runs through Colorado’s Bonanza Mining District, where copper, cadmium, and zinc mining took place for nearly a century beginning in the late 1880s. Dams built along the creek to accommodate the large volume of mining tailings being produced over the years eroded, impairing water quality and diminishing fish populations and upland vegetation.
The Kerber Creek Restoration Project is a multipartnered initiative. Partners include Trout Unlimited, the Bonanza Stakeholders Group, OSM/AmericaCorps VISTA, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, and local non-profit organizations (including the Collegiate Peaks Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited and Saguache County Sustainable Environment and Economic Developments). The main focus of restoration work to date has been phytostabilization work, leading water quality to improve and fish and invertebrate populations to flourish again.
In 2009, volunteers enlisted by the partnership logged over 4,000 hours of service installing straw wattles across the creek’s drainages, constructing a mile of fence, and seeding, fertilizing, and mulching 20 acres along the creek.
Thanks in part to their work, water quality and habitat conditions have improved enough in the watershed that the project’s partners and local landowners are considering the introduction of native cutthroat trout to the creek and recreations game species to the area.
The restoration project is an excellent example of developing and implementation of best management practices.
2010 BLM Hardrock Mineral Community Outreach and Security Award
Future Industrial Needs Discovery Project
|Hal Quinn of the National Mining Association, Joe Sherve of the BLM's Battle Mountain Field Office, Shar Peterson of Newmont Mining Corporation, Rod Davis of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Kate Neddenripe of Barrick Gold of North America, and Bob Abbey. |
Lander County, Nevada, home of Battle Mountain, has undergone the quintessential boom-and-bust cycle that many western communities have experienced. As late as 2000, reeling from the latest mining bust, the county was struggling to provide basic services to its residents.
Shortly after its formation in 2005, the Lander County Sustainable Development Committee began focusing on mining and community sustainability. The committee later made a proposal to the Lander County Development Committee that it participate in a project on post-mining land uses. The project was formally launched in 2008 and named the Future Industrial Needs Discovery, or FIND, project.
The project has received support from all levels of the community, including local businesses and mining companies, as well as cooperating agencies such as BLM. One of the project’s successes is development of a web database of local mining assets that provides businesses, developers, and the government a quick overview of the resources, assets, and infrastructure in Lander County. The database is housed at the University of Nevada’s web portal.
Baseline data gathered as part of FIND has also been used to help remove some of the economic growth barriers in the county, such as the designation of Battle Mountain as a federal floodplain area based on outdated watershed analyses.
The data has also enabled Lander County to provide better information to the state government on its road inventories, thus allowing it to boost funding for road construction and maintenance.
These successes are contributing greatly to the long-term economic health of Lander County.
Other rural counties are also beginning to emulate the FIND model, or to partner with Lander County on the project.
2010 BLM FAST! Award Winner
Spruce Mountain Abandoned Mine Remediation Project
|Hal Quinn of the National Mining Association with Rory Lamp of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and Bob Abbey.|
A post-World War I boom in lead, copper, and silver mining around Spruce Mountain in Nevada left the area dotted with shafts and adits such as the notorious “Hummer Hole.” The apparently bottomless hole was actually large enough to accommodate two or three of the vehicles side by side. These and other hazards around the mountain represented a huge threat to the off-highway vehicle community.
BLM’s Nevada office partnered with state and local organizations to tackle the problem. The Nevada Division of Minerals located and inventoried the hazards, posting warning signs at the entrances of some particularly dangerous shafts. Girl Scout volunteers fenced in mine sites. Bat surveys were conducted by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Nevada Natural Heritage Program, and the BLM. The Forest Service constructed bat gates, while the BLM conducted backfills. A heavy steel grate closure was fitted onto the gaping entrance of the Hummer Hole.
The work was conducted at elevations of up to 9,000 feet, in remote terrain hours from any commercial or emergency services.
Despite these obstacles, these diverse partners cooperated to close the hazards rapidly and efficiently, while at the same time ensuring that wildlife, cultural, and scenic values were protected. And, most importantly, the work was completed without a single accident or injury.
In all, the partners closed 47 mine sites – more than some other states are able to accomplish in an entire year.