Mine Tailings....

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by emulkahi1, Jun 7, 2006.

  1. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering if anyone here has ever had any sort of experience getting rid of old mine tailings (likely high in heavy metal content)? There is a piece of property (an acre), with a creek running through it, that is DRASTICALLY cheaper than the surrounding smaller lots, which do not have any sort of creek or stream running through them.

    Hubby and I have been looking for an inexpensive (relatively speaking anyway) investment property, and this one certainly fits that bill (could pay cash for it). However, I fear that any sort of disposal costs could greatly outweigh any upfront savings (which, I am quite sure, has a lot to do w/ the current price of this acre).

    We can do sweat equity no problem...Digging, hauling, etc. We've done--and are willing to do again--all of that. Red tape, and some beauracratic back and forth is also something we could deal with. Plus, it would be good to know that these heavy metals were no longer contaminating the environment. But, our financial resources are meager, so that would definitely be the limiting factor.

    Common sense tells me to stay away from this headache. But I figured it couldn't hurt to do a bit of asking around first...One never knows what one might learn.

    Any experiences along these lines? Good, bad, just plain awful? LOL....Thank you very much for your input :)!

    Erin
     
  2. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What were they mining there. In Ontario there is a lake east of the soo that has a white beach about 100 yards long created from the tailings from an old time gold mine nearby. The Gov. maintains it for public recreation, picnicing, and swiming. They used an old steam boiler to power the mine. It is still there over grown with brush. They named the place "Old Boiler Beach."
     

  3. celina

    celina Well-Known Member

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    um sorry to go off track...uncle will, i'm moving to the soo friday....which beach is it....we've been looking for a nice one....thanks
     
  4. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure which type of mine it was. Should have asked that question-- and will, the next time I call. My guess would be gold, given the area that it is in.

    The realtor DID say that, in the past, old tailings have been 'cleaned up' and then used for the surface of the high school track, and other things like that. I don't know why they are ok on the track surface, and not their old location....But I can't help but think that if they were all THAT dangerous, one probably wouldn't want them where children came in daily contact with them. But then, what do I know? LOL...

    Erin
     
  5. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

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    Mine tailings? Never heard of that, but I'm assuming you are talking about the runoff from the old mine.
    Until the runoff from the old mine is sealed off or treated once it leaves the mine, the problem on the property isn't going to clear up. You don't say, but I am assuming the mine is on someone else's property. If so, you are pretty much out of luck.
    Around here - Pennsylvania - there are lots of old coal mines. Red water runs out of them or seeps out of "sealed" mines. Sometimes the state gets involved and cleans up the problem.
    There is also a grant through PA where you can get grant money if a group (and it has to be a non profit group) gets together and raises money to clean up contaminated areas. But the group has to do the work and has to raise half of the estimated cost of the cleanup.
    We have a stream through our place that is contaminated with red mine water. However, the state has taken steps to clean up the mine discharge (several ponds with lime added). The ponds lets the contaminants settle in the pond while the lime increases the PH of the water. Even though the water still has iron in it, things are getting better as fish are living in the creek again.
    As for investment property - not sure how it will work out. You can buy it and hold it for 20 years (while doing what you can) and chances are you could sell it for a profit after 20 years, but if the problem is still there, chances are the value is going to be lower than surrounding areas.
     
  6. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    The concern with tailings is not "human contact." Generally the concern with mine tailings is heavy metals and low pH. Heavy metals are more soluble under low pH conditions. When heavy metals are more soluble they have more of an effect on plant life and can leach to groundwater and runoff to surface waters. Many old tailings sites do not have plants growing on them because of heavy metal toxicity and the nearby streams are devoid of fish and other plant and animal life due to the low pH water and dissolved metals. States require mining companies to reclaim areas impacted by mining. Reclamation generally consists of leveling the land, neutralizing the acid pH with aglime, addition of organic matter and nutrients, and revegetation. Increasing the pH will “tie up” soluble metals, and leveling the land together with revegetation will protect surface waters from acid drainage. If the land you are looking at is reclaimed, and the price is good, I’d consider its purchase. If it looks like a moonscape, I’d stay away from it. You may have some problems with a garden, but addition of more lime and organic matter should alleviate that potential problem.
     
  7. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Coal mining does not produce tailings. Ore mining (iron, copper, zinc, gold, lead, etc) produces mine tailings.
     
  8. forestdweller

    forestdweller Active Member

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    Celina, I'm pretty sure he's talking about the beach at Rock Lake, just south of Ophir, past Leeburn (northeast of Echo Bay, off of Hwy 638) I grew up in the area and spent a lot of time on that beach.
     
  9. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for your input. That is interesting about the low pH and its potential effect on tailings. Haven't actually seen the land yet, so I am not sure whether it looks like a 'moonscape' or not. We will be out that way in a week or so, and plan to stop there then. A first hand look will probably go a long way towards telling us whether it is worth the hassle or not.

    I am going to give the realtor another call here in a few minutes. I'll ask him about where the mine is (or was, more accurately) located. I am pretty sure that it is not on the property, but it would still be good to know this. I believe that it went defunct in the early 1900's, so at that point in history, the mining company probably wasn't concerned with reclaiming the land. I don't know if this is a situation where there was a tailings pond dam burst, which allowed the stuff to rush down the creek....or whether it was deposited there in some other way. I DO know that the EPA has looked at the site. Don't know what that means for its prognosis. I think there is just more information that needs to be learned about the specifics of the place.

    If nothing else, this has been an interesting learning experience. I'd never heard of this problem before, yet apparently it is quite an issue w/ MT's trout streams and the like.

    Erin
     
  10. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    Most of them I seen out West were just piled outside the Shaft.I know of a Guy that would Pan through the tailings coming out of a Molybdenum Mine and get what Gold and Silver he could out of it.Plus there is several Mines the Guys didn't know what they were doing,they was after Gold and were dumping Silver out with the tailings. :rolleyes:

    big rockpile
     
  11. limey

    limey Well-Known Member

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    ... in them thar hills! Better make sure what they were mining - you don't want to have anything to do with uranium mill tailings. :nono:
     
  12. pinecone44

    pinecone44 Tree Hugger

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    Opps, off track also. Are you talking about the beach somewhere behind Bruce Mines/Ohpir area. Gosh, totally forgotten the name! Lived in the area for 15 years and I'm blank. But, we have been there many times!
    Celina, hope you enjoy the area! I visit the newspaper website daily to get my dose of the waterfront via the webcam. Ahhh....memories!! :p

    Forestdweller-just backed up and read your reply. Yup...yup....and darn, I spelt Ophir wrong!!
     
  13. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    Actually some coal mines produce enormous amounts of tailings. The Anthracite deep mines of Northeastern Pa. produced billions of yards of tailings that somehow ended up being called Culm Banks. These banks are sometimes several hundred feet high and run for miles. They have a very low coal content, and can support some vegatation, especially Birch trees. Lately they are being re-mined and burned in co-generation facilities. Since there are at least 1/2 dozen of these power plants, and they burn huge amounts of the stuff every day, one day a lot of these mountians of waste will once again be fields.
     
  14. freeinalaska

    freeinalaska Well-Known Member

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    Around here gold mining tailings are sold for fill material for building sites. Most of the homes around us are built of a pad of tailings.
     
  15. Old_Grey_Mare

    Old_Grey_Mare Ain't what she used to be

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    You might want to ask if it is tailings that were removed from an underground mine or if it was a placer operation. There are huge rock piles all over Idaho and Colorado that were just moved around when the prospectors were looking for placer gold. They shouldn't be a problem at all--just a lot of rocks in your way.

    Mary
     
  16. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Thanks! I learned something today!
     
  17. BobK

    BobK Well-Known Member

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    Without knowing the type of mine and its location I would generally be concerned with liability associated with the contaminated site. Some, not all, gold mines have high levels of mercury lost during mining activities. If your ground is contaminated with mercury you might be buying yourself a large headache. Offsite movement of metals could be laid at your doorstep......but like I said these are general comments and without specifics about type and location of the mine site it is difficult to address the problem with any specificity.
     
  18. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    I'd definitely have to walk the site and do some poking around before I'd buy it. If it's drastically cheaper, there's a reason. I'm thinking Superfund site. Depending on what kind of tailings, you might be able to get rid of it... then again you might have to pay royally to get it hauled off. Haulers charge very good money per mile per load... I'd ponder the liabilities long and hard... if it's for investment, will it appreciate if it has toxic waste on it?
     
  19. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Agreed texican, on all points. We probably will not persue it, as there are just too many red flags (a few of them big, and waving in the wind--lol). But, I figured, learning a bit more about the issue couldn't hurt...and who knows....maybe would have turned up some good info.

    I do appreciate everyone's input. I've learned a lot from this thread :)!

    Erin
     
  20. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    ..........then again...

    If I could get a financial waiver of some sort from the powers that be...DEQ, USFS, Superfund people... codified onto a deed... relieving me of any future litigation from current problems...

    and the price was right! I'd snatch it up...