Engineering & Mining Journal

JUL 2018

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ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT 30 E&MJ • JULY 2018 www.e-mj.com The director wrote, "Our congratulations and appreciation for the outstanding job you have accomplished." At the time of Standard Metals' bankruptcy filing, Standard's reclama- tion bond was only $446,100. This bond was forfeited and, through litiga- tion and bankruptcy, th EPA recovered only $900,000 of additional insurance proceeds and some unwanted Standard Metals property that was conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The cost to reclaim the Sunnyside mine and related facilities was in the millions. Standard Metals walked away from those costs. But for SGC's presence in the basin, the Standard Metals bankruptcy would have fit the all-too-familiar pat- tern of other failed mines in the West. At the Sunnyside mine, SGC shouldered all of those costs. SGC operated the Sunnyside mine for only five years. During that time peri- od, ore from the mine was hauled to the Mayflower mill for processing. All tailings were retained in the upper level of May- flower Impoundment No. 4, well clear of any groundwater infiltration or surface path to the Animas River. SGC's activi- ties were all regulated by the federal and state governments and SGC's activities were all permitted. The MLRD October 28, 1987, inspection report of SGC's op- erations noted, "The mining operation ex- hibited some vast improvements over the last two years. The division would like to commend Frank Bergstrom (SGC environ- mental manager at the time) for his cour- teous, efficient and diligent manner with which he works with our office as well as in the field, as evidenced by the improve- ments noted, specifically at the Terry and American tunnels." From 1985 until 2003, SGC treated the entire American Tunnel discharge and stored the resulting sludge at the Mayflower Impoundments, even though not all of the discharge was generated from SGC property. In addition, from 1996 until 2003, SGC treated the en- tire flow of Cement Creek for nine months each year, removing thousands of pounds of metals from this Animas River tribu- tary, again even though there were signif- icant natural and third party sources of heavy metals to the creek. This Cement Creek treatment ad- dressed the total impact of upper Cement Creek to the Animas River, both natu- ral and mining related. Based upon the NPDES Discharge Monitoring Reports provided to the state of Colorado, SGC's treatment of Cement Creek between Au- gust 1996 and December 2002 removed more than 326,000 lb of metal from the creek. Over this same time period, SGC's treatment of water discharging from the American Tunnel prevented approximate- ly 290,000 lb of metals from entering the creek. As a result, Cement Creek below the treatment plant had less metals load- ing than it would have had under natural baseline conditions. SGC also operated a treatment plant at the Terry Tunnel from 1986 until SGC bulkheaded the tunnel in 1996, removing thousands of additional pounds of potential contaminants. During the period of SGC's opera- tions, the "net" load that SGC removed from the Animas was tremendous. While SGC mined additional ore, all discharg- es generated were permitted, treated or contained. Furthermore, SGC bulkhead- ed the entire mine upon closure. SGC operated the mine at a financial loss and the mine ultimately closed in 1991. SGC's five years of mining, which used modern techniques and was under the modern era of environmental regulation, substantially reduced metals loading in the Animas River from what would have otherwise been the case. 30 Years of Reclamation and Remediation SGC closed the Sunnyside mine in 1991 and continued the remediation and recla- mation activities it began in 1985 when it acquired the property. SGC's mine per- mit included the notation from the Col- orado DMG that "indefinite mine drain- age treatment is not acceptable as final reclamation. Please devise an alternate reclamation plan." SGC and the state of Colorado agreed on a comprehensive watershed approach in which SGC would be released from obligations in exchange for installing engineered bulkheads to eliminate mine drainage from the Sunnyside mine work- ings and completing numerous other The Lead Carbonate Tailings Impoundment as it appeared before 1991 (left). The same area as it appeared in 1994 (right) after SGC relocated 27,000 yd 3 of tailings to Mayflower Impoundment No. 4, and regraded, neutralized and reseeded the area.

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