A legacy of mining activities in the Lake Fork of the Gunnison watershed has left old mining and milling waste products that contain heavy metals which negatively affect the environment. Through various pathways these metal can contaminate water and soils. To reduce the effects of heavy metals on the environment, the LFVC has been working to remediate many of these sites. We do this work in partnership with local, state, and federal entities.
Helping the Hough (Huff)
The Hough Mine is situated at 12,800 feet near the top of the east side of Engineer Pass, approximately 500 feet from the well traveled 4-wheel drive road. Check it out some time!
The site consists of an open draining adit, a partially collapsed shaft, and two waste dumps that scatter debris over 7 acres.
When you're up there, you will probably notice that the site is not only near the pass, but is also located in the headwaters of Palmetto Gulch. Palmetto Gulch feeds into Henson Creek and becomes the main tributary to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.
Why Cleanup The Hough?
Casey Carrigan, OSM/VISTA 2010-12, tests water in Palmetto Gulch.
It's a no-brainer. Both Palmetto Gulch and Henson Creek have been listed on the 303(d) list of impaired waters (read: deemed polluted by Clean Water Act standards) for harmful levels of cadmium and zinc. The Hough is the largest man-made contributor of heavy metals to both of these water systems.
Of 66 mine waste sites sampled in Henson Creek drainage in 2005, the Hough contributed 95 percent of metal loading from this type of source. In addition to contributing cadmium and zinc to the water supply, the site contributes substantial copper, lead, aluminum and arsenic.
Based on our Henson Creek TMDL analysis, it is estimated that if the Hough Mine were
remediated (read: cleaned up), zinc and cadmium loading in Henson could be reduced to the point where Henson Creek could be removed from the 303(d) list!
Reclaimed Mines and Mine Sites
The Golden Fleece: 2010-2012
The adit leaks acid drainage. Photo: B. Hite
The Golden Fleece mine had a productive career. By 1904 it had produced $1,400,000 in silver and gold ore; total gold production from 1874 to 1919 totaled about $10 million.
The mine is located 5 miles south of Lake City and approximately 0.8 miles west of the north end of Lake San Cristobal, which is the second largest natural lake in Colorado and a major recreational resource and drinking water supply lake in Hinsdale County. Acid mine drainage from the Golden Fleece Mine was contaminating the lake, potentially affecting the recreational tourism economy (fishing was a particular concern) and getting into Lake City's drinking water supply.
The Ute-Ulay Repository: 2010-2011
During and after reclamation.
The Ute-Ulay claims were formally located in 1874. Two years later, as Colorado gained statehood, the mine received its first influx of eastern investment when the Crooke Brothers bought the mine. Its economy tied to the mine, Lake City boomed as well, boasting a population of 4,000 downtown, and another 2,000 in the "suburbs" that year.
It continued to produce in cycles of boom an bust for the next quarter century. Between 1874 and 1900, the Ute Ulay produced $12 million in silver and lead.
In 2009, the Bureau of Land Management, in partnership with the Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety, initiated a $1.2 million cleanup of the tailings piles above Henson Creek. This reclamation included not only tailings from the Ute-Ulay, but from three other mine sites: the ore pile at Hanna Mill, the Risorgimento Mine, and the Hidden Treasure Mine.
Hanna Mill, Risorgimento Mine, and the
The LFVC will continue to work on mine reclamation projects as partnerships, projects and time becomes available to work on them.