When mining companies plan for the future, they’re focused on more than exploration and development. They are just as active in planning the future remediation of current mines that will eventually close. “Preparing for mine closure and remediation is all a vital part of the life of the mine planning process,” explains Mark Yingling, vice president – environmental, health and safety at Doe Run. “Our commitment to operating responsibly includes planning for the future of the site once it closes. Our goal is to make closed sites a benefit to the local area.”
St. Joe State Park in Park Hills, Missouri, provides a great example of how a closed site can be converted to a new purpose. In 1976, St. Joseph Lead Company (a Doe Run predecessor company) donated land to the state of Missouri that previously housed both St. Joe Company mining and milling operations, as well as the operations of an ASARCO Inc. subsidiary. At the time, the site was vegetated. Over the years, the site became one of Missouri’s most popular and profitable state parks, with off-road ATV riding, swimming beaches, bike and equestrian trails, campsites and a museum.
Decades of ATV use destroyed vegetation in portions of St. Joe State Park. In 2011, Doe Run remediation crews began working at the site under an agreement with the U.S. EPA, and in cooperation with Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) – State Parks Department, to remediate the site in a different manner. Completed in 2014, efforts included covering and stabilizing tailings (sand-sized rock left over from the milling process), covering 325 acres of trails with gravel, building drainage swales to control water runoff and erosion, and building water retention ponds. Previous work included replacing sand at a swimming beach and replacing mine chat with gravel at camping sites. The park’s continued maintenance will be handled by MDNR. Nearby, Doe Run remediation crews also addressed and improved storm water controls at a number of former mine sites, including Leadwood, Rivermines and Elvins, all located in the Old Lead Belt area.
Mining also took place by various companies in an area known as the Tri-State Area of Kansas, Oklahoma and southwest Missouri. Production began in the 1850s and 1860s in the Joplin-Granby area of Jasper and Newton counties of southwest Missouri, and continued until the closure of the Picher Mines in 1967. Today, Doe Run contractors are addressing some chat and tailings sites in the area. Remediation efforts began in 2014 at a former mine site in Jasper County. Those efforts, which include removing chat and tailings, re-grading the site and reseeding plants and vegetation, will be complete in 2015.
In Herculaneum, Missouri, residential yard sampling and soil remediation efforts are nearing completion as a result of the closure of the Herculaneum smelter in 2013. Remediation crews continued to sample yards within a 1.5 mile radius of the former smelter in 2014, and yards identified with elevated levels of lead in the soil will be remediated by the end of 2015. Final yard sampling and remediation, if needed, will take place following completion of reclamation at the smelter site.
“After ending smelting operations, Doe Run quickly turned to identifying future uses for the site to ensure the land continues as an economic driver for the Herculaneum community,” said Chris Neaville, Doe Run’s asset development director, and Herculaneum native. “Riverview Commerce Park LLC (RCP) has successfully transitioned existing river and rail infrastructure into a growing shipping operation.”
In November 2014, MDNR’s Voluntary Cleanup Program approved the remedial plan for areas of the former smelter site now utilized by RCP. The plan includes adding an approximately three-foot deep layer of soil across portions of the property, which will prepare the area for further development of expanded port operations. As a part of this effort, the company had to remove trees from its property. Doe Run will donate trees to the city over the next few years to support the city of Herculaneum’s Tree City USA designation.
From Smelting to Shipping
In Herculaneum, about 18 acres of Doe Run’s property along the Mississippi River now operates as a vibrant shipping port.
Building on a successful first year of operation in 2013, RCP partnered with the Jefferson County Port Authority to add a new barge fleeting area on the Mississippi River near the RCP port. The barge fleeting area allows barges to park closer to the port, which makes loading and unloading more efficient. The construction of the fleet area began in 2014 and was completed in early 2015.
“The shipping operations surpassed our expectations during its first two years,” said Mark Denton, project manager for RCP. “What began at around 100,000 tons of sand increased to approximately 600,000 tons in 2014. With the staging area, and an upcoming second dock, we anticipate handling more than 1 million tons of material and maintaining a 12-person workforce at the site by the end of 2015.”
Supporting Daily Operations
In addition to remediating closed sites, remediation crews regularly support daily Doe Run operations. In 2014, crews assisted with repairs of land depressions and sinkholes that appeared on or near company property at the West Fork Mine site. Part of a depression occurred in a portion of the West Fork stream bed that crosses Doe Run property. After inspecting the site and obtaining permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MDNR, crews rerouted a portion of the stream in order to help it maintain its normal flow. As part of the process, Doe Run staff collected fish from the old channel and relocated them into the new channel, so there was minimal loss of fish. The new channel has since shown normal aquatic biology and water flow.
Separately, in October 2014, a tailings pipe at the company’s Sweetwater Mine and Mill broke, allowing mostly water and tailings to spill onto the ground on Doe Run property and eventually making its way onto private property. A small amount entered Adair Creek, with a very small amount reaching Logan Creek. Remediation crews worked with impacted property owners to remove tailings in a safe, effective manner. The tailings have been removed, and impacted areas have been graded where necessary, seeded and covered with straw.