May 20, 2012

SandBoxBlogs: Aspen Daily News " Mining and Hope"

Andrew Travers:
"The countless dormant mines in and around the Roaring Fork Valley offer a peculiar mix of danger and opportunity for forest officials.

Take the Hope Mine, for instance, where threats to public safety and water quality have led to innovation in reclamation strategy.

The silver mine in the Castle Creek Valley was founded in 1911 and never turned a profit before it was abandoned, though more than 158 tons of silver ore was extracted from it.

A century later, however, waste left behind by miners has proved to be fertile ground for reclamation officials. Since 2010, foresters have used biochar to successfully re-vegetate the riverside slope of mine waste, restoring soil ravaged by silver tailings. It was the first project of its kind in the world. Biochar is a charcoal-like substance made from heated biomass, which can be applied to increase soil fertility.

Forest Service soil scientist Brian McMullen said that the once-barren, dry soil below the mine has a significantly higher moisture content on some of the treatment areas compared to what’s on untreated parts of the slope.

The waste pile below the mine has formed a steep three-story-high embankment above Castle Creek, just upstream from the city of Aspen’s water treatment plant. Observers have long been concerned that the pile may slide into the river. If it did, it would add so much sediment to the creek that it could ruin Aspen’s public water supply from the creek for years, officials said.

“It’s been a pretty amazing success,” said Scott Snelson, district ranger for the White River National Forest, regarding the biochar treatment. “It reduces the risk of a slide so much.” ....." (Read more? Click title)

"Unapologetic pursuit and tracking of patterns within the news others make since 2010."

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