At one time the center of a thriving hydraulic mining industry, the Blue Point Mine had towering escarpments, an abundance of wildlife, and the area’s only nesting peregrine falcon pair. Blue Point also bore the scars of a century of on-again, off-again quarry operation, with a valley floor scraped bare of topsoil and piled with sand, gravel and abandoned machinery. We decided to do something about it.
The Reclamation Plan:
The first step was a preparation of a reclamation plan, required by the California Department of Mining and Geology. State law mandated that the site be reclaimed to the condition it was in as of 1972, when the Mining and Reclamation Act was passed — not a very high bar for a property that had been devastated by hydraulic mining in the 1800’s.
Obtaining the approval of a state agency is never a slam dunk, particularly when a hearing before a state board, consisting of both industry professionals and political appointees, is required. We summarized our Reclamation Plan in a Power Point presentation so the Board would have a clear understanding of what we were proposing. The Reclamation Plan was unanimously approved.
Thinking Outside the Reclamation Plan:
Reclamation efforts can be considerably easier to design than to implement, particularly for a site like Blue Point, which had been stripped of its topsoil a century before. What remained, however, were immense mountains of sand, the by-product of decades of quarry operation. These piles were erosive and posed an ongoing threat to water quality. They also, however, presented an opportunity.
We found a partner in the Nevada County’s green waste recycling program — they were looking for ways to recycle green waste, and we needed green material to incorporate with our immense quantities of sand to create topsoil. Within a week, Nevada County had moved their industrial grinder onto the site, and was trucking ten to twenty truckloads of green waste per day onto the site, where we ground it, mixed it with sand, and spread it over the property. Within a month we had managed to resoil the entire area.
The Final Result:
The following spring was spectacular — land which had lain bare for over a century erupted in a frenzy of bloom, which was followed, to the delight of the cattle, by an abundance of grasses. The Office of Mining Reclamation called it the finest reclamation effort they’d seen.