U.S. Forest Service News Release
September 23, 2013
Holden Mine Remediation Progress
Chelan—Mine clean-up personnel have been hard at work this summer at the Holden Mine site. Forest Service officials are pleased with the excellent progress made this season at the inactive mine located on the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, about 50 miles north of the city of Chelan.
Throughout the summer the site has had an average of 140 personnel working on various elements of the clean-up operations.
Emphasis areas for this construction season have included construction of the Lucerne barge ramp and landing area, development of the rock quarry and several borrow material areas, underground mine portal bulkhead installation, platform construction for the underground barrier wall (scheduled to be installed in 2014), the temporary diversion of Copper Creek, and preparation work for the realignment of Railroad Creek.
Among the most significant achievements of the summer has been the dismantling of the Howe Sound Mill Structure. Chelan District Ranger Kari Grover Wier describes the absence of the old mill structure as a visible sign of recovery at the Holden Mine site. "It is a step towards restoring the area to a more natural state," states Grover Wier. The mill structure needed to be removed so that the underlying and adjacent waste material could be re-graded to a stable slope eventually covered with vegetation.
"Preparation and hard work from all parties involved has made this season successful," explains Jolene Gosselin-Campbell, Forest Service Assistant Remedial Project Manager for the Holden Mine Cleanup. "Pieces of the puzzle are coming together and we are seeing a positive transformation that will in time improve the environmental health in the Railroad Creek valley and ultimately Lake Chelan."
But the season is far from over. The next major accomplishment for the cleanup will be the completion of the newly realigned section of Railroad Creek. Over the course of the summer, a nearly 900 foot creek bed has been constructed to divert Railroad Creek away from the tailings piles. The goal is to have water flowing through the realigned stream bed before the construction season is over in November.
After completing the 2013 construction season, crews will return next spring to construct a below ground barrier wall, and continue cleanup efforts at the Holden Mine site to improve the environmental health in the Railroad Creek valley.
(Photos above of realignment work on Railroad Creek and demolition of the mill building by Mary Koch.)
It’s a multi-million dollar effort to clean up contaminants (potential threats to human and environmental health) that were left from the Howe Sound Holden Mine era. Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining groups, is managing and paying for the cleanup under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. More than 120 acres, largely across Railroad Creek from Holden Village, are included in the affected area.
What will be done in the mine cleanup process?
The cleanup (also called remediation or mitigation) is largely concerned with keeping contaminants out of the ground water and the surface water—namely, Railroad Creek. A large amount of earth moving and construction will aim to capture all water that comes in contact with the tailings left from the mine and other contaminated areas. The water will then be purified in a water-treatment plant before being discharged back into the environment.
When is the mine cleanup project going to happen and how long will it last?
After two years of "Early Works" projects, heavy construction is expected to continue through at least two summers (May 1 through November) 2013-2014. Holden Village will not be able to welcome guests, but will be housing and feeding up to 200 mine construction workers during the construction seasons. We will put this time to good use as we upgrade village infrastructure and facilities. After remediation construction is complete, there will then be a five-year period of testing and analysis to determine whether further work will be necessary in the eastern portion of the affected area.
Is Holden Village going to close during the mine cleanup?
No! The opportunities to visit or work at Holden Village may be different than you’re used to, especially during summer, so you might want to consider experiencing the beautiful winter at Holden. There are opportunities, too, to work and volunteer during the construction era.
What will the Village do during the cleanup?
This time is being viewed as an opportunity both to support the cleanup effort and to make facility improvements to ensure that the Village will be healthy well into the future. In support of the cleanup, the Village will once again be transformed into a mining town—housing, feeding and taking care of the mine remediation workers. At the same time the Village will continue to be supported by hundreds of volunteers. They’ll handle much-needed repairs to the Village’s buildings, electrical systems and waterworks. They’ll also provide ongoing support for Holden’s multifaceted programs.
Will the Village look changed after the cleanup is finished?
The Village will look fresh, but it will not really change. The Village is required to abide by federal regulations governing historical sites. Holden, which operates under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service must retain the original, industrial look of its mining era. The surrounding areas—specifically, across Railroad Creek—will look quite different. The mill structure will be removed, the tailings graded and capped, many trees planted and some new structures built.
Will any current Holden Village buildings be destroyed?
Yes. On the second level Holden’s two garages and the former Portal Museum structure will be demolished. They’ll be rebuilt at the end of the project. Museum displays have already been moved to the Village Center. Garage activities are being relocated to a temporary facility.
What will happen to Holden Village programming?
As always, Holden’s programming will help define and express our life together. Programming will be an essential element in taking on challenges that lie ahead. It will be simultaneously familiar, new and creative as we evolve together during this time of much-needed environmental restoration.