|7/23/2014 8:13:00 PM|
Remediation work project
progressing at Holden Village
Story and photo By Erich Hilkert
|Construction vehicles work between tailings pile three (TP3) and tailings pile two (TP2) at Holden Village.|
Singin' in the Rain, Ronnie Reagan, and an American flag share a wall in the basement pool hall in the Village Center, a relic from a once-prosperous mining town during The Great Depression.
Today, Holden Village is primarily a spiritual retreat center that has operated for more than 50 years. An estimated 7,000 guests and volunteers come to Holden Village each year.
The Village is intimately tied with the Holden Mine remediation project, a federally-mandated cleanup project that began in 2011. 2014 marks the largest and most active construction season of the cleanup project. Due to the degree of construction, Holden Village is not accepting guests during the 2014 construction season but welcomes volunteer and contracted workers.
Howe Sound Mining Company began construction of Holden Village in 1937, beginning operations there in 1938 until 1957. It was primarily an underground copper mine, although it produced other minerals like aluminum and gold as well.
Operation of the mine left behind a slew of environmental problems including high levels of metals in soil and water among other things.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named Intalco as the Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) for the cleanup in the 1990s. Rio Tinto acquired Alcan Inc. in 2007. Because Alcan Inc. had been a partial owner of Intalco, Rio Tinto assumed responsibility--including financial burdens--of the project, although Rio Tinto is a separate company from Intalco. Rio Tinto owns no real property at Holden Village.
Rio Tinto is one of the world's leading mining groups that specializes in mine development and closure.
Because of Holden Village's remote location, one must travel several hours by boat and then travel nearly 11 miles traveling up roughly 2,000 feet in elevation on steep, switchback roads to get to it. While the road has turnoffs, it is a forest service road closely controlled by a coordinated radio system.
Boat service is offered year-round. However, due to high snow pack, much of the construction work is limited to April through Thanksgiving. Holden Village averages 270 inches of annual snowfall. Avalanche-clearing is a big part of road service in the winter. Work near creek generally does not begin until July because of snowmelt.
This year, roughly 90 pieces of equipment were carried up to Holden Village beginning in late March and will cycle back down in September.
Although the project began in 2011, the heavy construction portion of the project began in 2013. Last year, the mill building was demolished, a new barge ramp was built at the Lucerne dock, and the Chelan Boat Company parking lot was completed. Additionally, 900 feet of Railroad Creek was realigned in order to address the problem of acid rock drainage, which affects groundwater and surface water quality.
In 2014, more than a million cubic yards of tailings are being moved. With embankments up to 120 feet steep in close proximity to the creek waters, this is an essential process. By reshaping and covering tailings and covering contaminated soils, vegetation may be restored. Holden Village is dependent on wood for heat in the winter. Work on tailings pile two (TP2) has included buttressing slopes that contained deposits of slimes with relocated deposit rocks.
Another important project being completed is a below-ground barrier wall to collect contaminated water. The wall will be an estimated 60 feet in length. Construction on Copper Creek and quarry and borrow areas continue this year as well.
Goals for 2015 are primarily focused on the completion of a water treatment plant at Copper Creek. The water treatment plant is expected to be fully functional with hydropower by 2016 and scheduled to be commissioned in late 2015.
The project is expected to provide 370 jobs by its completion, the majority of which originate in Central Washington.
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