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Background Information on the 2009 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 Small Operator Award recognizes achievements in environmental stewardship of operators with less than 15 employees. Like the BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award, this award recognizes operators who have demonstrated continuous or repeated efforts to successfully meet or exceed Federal, State or local reclamation requirements. 

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.

2009 BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award Winner
Kinross Gold Corporation’s DeLamar Mine

BLM Director Bob Abbey and representatives from Kinross Gold Corporation's DeLamar Mine.
The Kinross DeLamar Mine is located in Owyhee County, Idaho, about 3 miles southwest of Silver City. It began operating in the 1880s, and over the next 60 years produced 6 million ounces of silver and 400,000 ounces of gold. Kinross purchased the mine in 1993 and operated it until depressed metal prices forced the company to shut down the site in 1999. 

The DeLamar mine is typical of the open pit/precious metal mines that dot the Rocky Mountain West. Many of these operations contained large-scale tailings impoundments that complicated site closures. Like DeLamar, most of these sites were at high elevations with excess precipitation and limited evaporation, resulting in net positive water balances. In 2002, Kinross established a separate unit within the company to manage reclamation and closure of its inactive mine sites. By mid-2004, a closure plan, a water management plan, and five engineering design plans had been approved for the site, and were set to be implemented over six years. 

The BLM and other federal and state agencies partnered with Kimross to develop the plans. One of the problems addressed by the plans was the excess water gathering at the site’s tailings pond. Kinross established a system of engineered channels that routed and discharged stormwater runoff from the mine facilities with minimal erosion. This resulted in a 75 percent reduction of inflows to the tailings pond. Enhanced mechanical evaporation and land application were also employed to reduce water volumes in the tailings pond. 

By the end of the 2007 field season, water in the pond was at its lowest level since the late 1970s. Another issue faced at the DeLamar Mine was affording the tailings ample time to dry given the accelerated schedule detailed in the closure plan. Engineers consequently recommended updating the schedule to allow more time for de-watering while reducing time devoted to construction of covers over the tailings. 

By the end of the 2008 field season, de-watering had progressed to the point that dry conditions had been reestablished. Over the 6-year period, Kinross completed 8 large-scale earthworks projects and a variety of smaller projects. In implementing the reclamation plan developed with the BLM and other regulatory authorities, Kinross was able to return the land in the DeLamar site to productive post-mine uses.

2009 BLM Hardrock Mineral Small Operator Award
Mike Price

Mike Price and Bob Abbey
The Solomon mining claim and millsite is located in White Pine County, Nevada, in the Historic Osceola Mining District. Many of the mines in the area were operated before federal bonding and reclamation requirements were put in place. 

Alta Gold leased the mining claim and millsite from the claimant in the 1990s, but went bankrupt before it could complete any reclamation work. The BLM estimated the cost of reclamation of the site to be in excess of $250,000. Over the last few years, Mike Price has been working with the BLM Schell Field Office and the claimant to reclaim the site. Mr. Price’s accomplishments include identifying and locating the owner of a 10-ton trammel at the site and arranging to have it removed; removing two trailers and their occupants that were in violation of the 3715 regulations; disposing of several tons of debris and trash; organizing other small miners in the area to remove and scrap 50 tons of iron from the site; and supplying background information on the mine for a RAC tour of the site, and guiding a tour of the site for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Mr. Price is paying for reclamation of the site out of his own pocket, thus supplementing the $24,000 reclamation bond that the prior lessee forfeited to the BLM. Without help from citizens like Mike Price, many of the AML sites in the Hogum area would remain unreclaimed and continue to be a danger to the public, as well as an eyesore. Mr. Price is a fine example of a steward of public lands.

2009 BLM FAST! Award Winner
Nevada Operating Engineers Union Joint Apprenticeship Committee for Northern Nevada  

Bob Abbey and representatives of the Nevada Operating Engineers.
The Nevada BLM abandoned mine program has focused on eliminating hazards to public land users in areas like Painted Rock, located east of Reno and Sparks. 

Miners excavating shafts and adits at Painted Rock in the early 20th century had no idea their labors would result in dangers for future generations of recreationists, off-road vehicle users, hunters, and rock hounds. When the deep holes in the desert failed to yield gold or silver, they simply packed up and moved on to the next prospect. 

While evaluating the impacts of site closure in the Painted Rock area on bat populations and archaeological resources, BLM and Nevada Division of Minerals personnel encountered a large fenced-in facility containing bulldozers and other heavy equipment. This turned out to be the training center for the Nevada Operating Engineers union, which quickly volunteered its apprentices to fill the abandoned mines as part of their bulldozer training. 

BLM was impressed by the union’s focus on safety, the patience of the trainers, the pace at which the apprentices learned to operate the machinery, and their positive spirit – which came despite operating on difficult terrain during extreme weather conditions. The union’s unconditional donation of equipment, fuel, and operators allowed the BLM to eliminate the hazards at no expense to the taxpayer, and with none of the contracting paperwork, cost, and delays that often attend government procurement. In total, the union’s efforts saved the government more than $6,000. 

2009 BLM FAST! Award Winner
California Department of Conservation’s Abandoned Mine Lands Unit

Bob Abbey and Cy Oggins of the Abandoned Mine Lands Unit of the California Department of Conservation.
The California Department of Conservation’s Abandoned Mine Lands Unit is a recognized leader in the effort to eradicate physical hazards associated with California’s 47,000 abandoned mines, approximately two-thirds of which lie on federal lands. The unit has taken a lead role in inventorying and remediating unsafe abandoned mine land features on federal, state, and local lands in California by coordinating with more than two dozen partners, and by providing funds and staff time. 

The unit has compiled data on nearly 24,000 abandoned mine land features on federal and state land throughout California. The Abandoned Mine Lands Unit has also promoted abandoned mine land issues through public forums, coordination with legislative and congressional offices, and outreach in the form of news releases, safety videos, and even a reality TV show. 

The unit’s “Stay Out – Stay Alive!” slogan is part of a national awareness campaign to warn children and adults about the dangers of recreating near abandoned mines. Since it began funding abandoned mine remediation projects in 2002, the Abandoned Mine Lands Unit has provided more than $650,000 to its partners to remediate more than 500 hazardous mine features. 

Methods employed by the unit include bat-compatible gates, cupolas and culverts, polyurethane, backfills, wire fences, capping, and removal of hazardous debris. In January and February of 2009, for example, the Abandoned Mine Lands Unit partnered with BLM’s Barstow Field Office to install four cupolas and a grate on abandoned mine shafts in an area receiving heavy public visitation. Bat-compatible closures were installed to preserve habitat.