Colorado Claims National Reclamation Award for Peanut Mine
The Peanut Mine, located at elevation 9,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies near the town of Crested Butte, presented many interesting and complex reclamation challenges. This abandoned coal mine contained both coal refuse and silver mill wastes. While the coal refuse had a propensity to spontaneously combust, the silver mill waste generated acid and mobilized metals into nearby waterways.
Prior to developing a reclamation plan, the Colorado Inactive Mine Reclamation Program (CIMRP) conducted many investigations to characterize the site. This information provided the basis for a reclamation plan that addressed the coal and non-coal problems at the Peanut Mine.
The CIMRP made a concerted effort to involve the community in all steps of the reclamation planning and construction process. CIMRP sponsored a Reclamation Studies class at the local High School, hosted town meetings during development of the conceptual reclamation plan, and conducted weekly tours of the site during construction.
Reclamation entailed excavating the coal and silver mill waste materials, mixing them in a specific ratio, and placing them in a disposal facility. The waste material mixing ratio was based on geochemical testing that indicated that coal buffers the acid production potential of the mill waste. Mixing of materials also dilutes the coal so that spontaneous combustion potential was minimized.
The surface of the waste disposal facility and the areas from where waste material was excavated were constructed so that they are geomorphically compatible with the surrounding topography. Dirt, donated prior to construction, was heavily amended with organic material, and was distributed over the contoured site.
Vegetation, including grasses, shrub islands, and tree plantings, was established by recreating the natural growth patterns and characteristics evident on adjacent lands.
Following completion of all other reclamation activities, volunteers planted 4,500 trees at the site.
By any measure, reclamation was successful at the Peanut Mine. The citizens of Crested Butte are now more aware of the hazards caused by past mining practices and how abandoned mines can be restored to beneficial use. This once neglected eyesore is now an enjoyable open space.