UWP completes first mine remediation project at Michael Breen Mine
The unpredictable early fall weather made UWP’s first mine remediation project at the high elevation Michael Breen Mine on Engineer Pass road very uncertain. But, we crossed our fingers for a glorious fall and forged ahead. First, Jack Pftersh of Alpine Archaelogical Consultants, LLC in Montrose completed site recordation and assessment of a historic ore load-out structure, just as the first snow blanketed the high country at the end of September. An expedited review of his report by the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) gave us the green light to proceed with stabilization of the load-out. Meanwhile, Jeff Litteral of Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) finalized agreements and plans to construct a diversion ditch for a draining adit, install a culvert and stabilize the structure. The remediation work began in early October. The weather turned warm and dry and all major tasks were completed by Halloween. The following pictures depict major stages of this project which was made possible by funding from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Nonpoint Source Program and Water Quality Improvement Fund as well as match funding and in-kind contributions from DRMS. These partners will also support UWP’s remediation projects at the abandoned Atlas Mill and Vernon Mine in 2015. Thank you all for your collaboration on UWP’s biggest project to date!
Why the project?
Drainage from a collapsed mine adit discharged across a waste rock pile leaching metals which were a nonpoint source pollutant to the Uncompahgre River flowing just below the abandoned mine site and Engineer Pass Road. The Uncompahgre River is listed on the Clean Water Acts 303(d) list of impaired waters; it is impaired by cadmium, copper, zinc and manganese. The UWP and DRMS conducted clean up efforts at the abandoned Michael Breen site to reduce metals loading to the Uncompahgre. Additionally, we stabilized the pictured historic, ore load-out structure which was being destabilized by adit water flowing through the waste rock pile on which it sits.
Step 1: Monitoring
In July and October 2014, we collected water samples from the Michael Breen waste rock seep and adit as well as the Uncompahgre River to measure metal loading and water chemistry before mine remediation began. Now that work has been completed, we will again collect samples in 2015 to determine the change in pollutant loading to the Uncompahgre and evaluate the success of our project.
Step 2: Mine remediation
Before (July 2014)
After (October 2014)
We constructed a diversion ditch to route the adit discharge around the waste rock pile in order to reduce leaching of metals from the waste rock and into the Uncompahgre River. This also re-routed water that was pooling under the load-out structure and destabilizing it.
Step 2: Mine remediation
Discharge water pooling under the load-out structure before diversion ditch was constructed (above) and one week after its construction (below).
Step 3: Stabilization
The historic ore load-out structure was stabilized according to recommendations from Alpine Archaelogical Consultants and SHPO.
The construction crew from Mountain Region Construction in Grand Junction installed support beams and bracing members to stabilize the structure. Additional restoration and preservation work might be conducted in a new, future project and in partnership with other organizations.
Step 4: Remaining work
Remediation and structure stabilization work is 90% complete at the Michael Breen site. Some re-vegetation of the waste rock is planned for 2015. We may also conduct additional stabilization work in the spring, once we evaluate how the structure holds up through the winter season. And, we will be collecting water samples to measure the success of our remediation efforts on water quality.