Restoration: Mary Murphy Mine project set to start mid-summer

Mary Murphy Mine

From The Mountain Mail (Maisie Ramsay):

High on Chrysolite Mountain south of St. Elmo sits the Mary Murphy Mine, one of many nearly abandoned mining sites dotting the landscape of Chaffee County. The mine, a once-rich source of gold and silver, is now a pollutant. “It’s discharging metals into Chalk Creek. It makes it difficult for fish to survive,” said Jeff Graves, senior project manager for the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

Work is now under way to permanently stop the mine’s discharge of zinc-laden water toxic to fish – runoff linked to a 1986 fish kill. “The goal is to reduce the amount of discharge significantly and by that hopefully improve water quality within Chalk Creek,” Graves said.

The reclamation agency is seeking bids on the first phase of a two-stage project to end contaminated seepage from the site, described in a 2009 state report as the “single greatest contributor of heavy metals” in Chalk Creek. The first phase of the estimated $500,000 project is set to begin mid-summer, Graves said.

The project will reinforce the mine’s Golf Tunnel to prevent it from collapsing on workers during the second phase of the project, when a long-term barrier will be put in place. The tunnel will be stabilized, the floor cleaned of muck, ventilation put into place and basic utilities installed such as electricity and telephone. The Golf Tunnel is 2,200 feet below the surface, the lowest level of the Mary Murphy Mine.

Companies interested in the project must attend a mandatory pre-bid meeting at 10 a.m. May 7 in the U.S. Forest Service parking lot near St. Elmo. Bids must be submitted by May 23.

Following the stabilization of the Golf Tunnel, workers will install concrete plugs designed to stop mining discharge during the second phase of the project. “It’ll be like putting a cork in it,” Graves said. The “cork” phase has not yet been scheduled. Graves could not provide a specific cost estimate, but said the installation of the concrete plugs is expected to cost more than reinforcing the tunnel.

There are still claims on the Mary Murphy Mine, though the site is largely abandoned. The latest remediation work follows prior efforts to reduce pollution at the site through consolidation, capping and revegetation of mine tailings.

The work is being funded by the state and federal government after it was determined that “existing landowners are nonviable … for insufficient funds,” Graves said.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

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