Mine Reclamation Project at Sulphur Creek Mining District
June 2016 - July 2016
As thousands of prospective gold miners rushed to California during the Gold Rush of 1849, the town of Williams became home for many European settlers and miners due to its abundance of minerals including copper, sulphur and gold. Wilbur Hot Springs, an extremely geologically active area 22 miles away from Williams, is a popular destination for tourists looking for an escape immersed in nature.
The natural hot springs found here are believed to have therapeutic effects on one's body and soul, with it's water containing high concentrations of minerals including chloride, carbonic acid, sulphate, magnesium and lithium. Also located by the springs are inactive sulphur and gold mines. These mines abandoned by the '49ers now pose a hazard to the local environment as its waste rock and mine tailings, containing high levels of mercury and lithium, are contaminating the sorrrouding streams, creeks and ground water, jeopardizing wild life.
Great Lakes Environmental and Infrastructure, a private firm specializing in environmental remediation and geotechnical services, was contracted to excavate the mine tailings from each of the four inactive sulphur mines located at Wilbur Hot Springs, transferring the potentially hazardous waste to a contained repository farther upstream.
In order to begin excavation, roads providing access to each mine through hills had to be engineered and constructed first to support numerous haul trucks each carrying over 18 cubic yards of material. Taking into account natural hazards, environmental limitations and biological activity, each step of the project was critical with no room for error. Both mobilization and demobilization of all equipment had to be in sync with the cyclic mating time of the bats that inhabited such mines.
With the duration of the project lasting from June - September 2016, over 17,000 cubic yards of waste rock were excavated and deposited into the repository in total. With no injuries, incidents or accidents, the project was completed on schedule.
As the Project Engineer intern, day to day tasks included field surveying, quality control testing, updating construction project schedules, in addition to calculating volumes for pay quantities and production analysis using survey data. Also, coordinating project vendors and subcontractors for the Sulphur Creek mine reclamation project.
To learn more about Wilbur Hot Springs' history, click here.