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CMA Environmental Sustainability Partners

 2017 Award Recipient Climax Molybdenum Company (A Freeport-McMoRan Company) Elk Robinson

CMA Environmental Sustainability Partner Program

The CMA Environmental Sustainability Partner Program promotes sustainable practices and builds positive public perceptions of our modern mining industry by providing the opportunity for mining operators to demonstrate their proactive commitment and approaches to environmental sustainability. Exceptional performers are recognized for their achievements at CMA’s annual awards ceremony. View the recipients of the 2018 awards here.


Environmental sustainability practices include:


  • Recycling/Reuse
  • Water Conservation and Pollution Prevention
  • Energy Conservation
  • Waste Management
  • Wildlife Habitat Restoration, Enhancement or Preservation Program
  • Repurposing of Mined Lands
  • Community Engagement/Education


Projects and Sustainable Practices of Colorado Mines



Mountain Coal Company, West Elk Mine

Trapper Mining Inc., Trapper Mine

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Colowyo Coal Company L.P.


Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., Climax Molybdenum Company, Henderson Operations
Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., Climax Mine
Newmont Mining Corporation, Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company

Ouray Silver Mines Inc., Revenue-Virginius Mine



Mountain Coal Company, West Elk Mine


Project: Coal Stockpile Dust Control Sealing (along with Continued Recycling, Energy Reduction and Waste Minimization)

Description: Mountain Coal Company, LLC (MCC) manages the mined coal in several open stockpiles on the West Elk Mine site. Including, ‘run-of-mine coal’, which is coal not yet crushed and screened to product size, as well as product coal that has been screened and is ready for shipment. To meet the different coal contract specifications, the various coal qualities are separated into different locations within the stockpiles. As such, some stockpiled coal may not be screened and shipped as quickly as other areas of the stockpiles and remains in place for extended periods of time. As watering the longer-term stockpiles for dust suppression exacerbates the potential for spontaneous combustion of the stockpiled coal and some dust suppression products impact the salable coal quality, MCC researched other products and identified a non-hazardous aqueous acrylic polymer emulsion product to seal the outside layer of the longer-term coal stockpiles. Because the stockpiles are quite large, spraying the dust control sealant product from the base of the pile could not reach the full height of the stockpiles. To remedy this challenge, MCC fabricated a deck for the bulldozer to carry a large tank and pump system to spray the dust control sealant from the top of the stockpiles. With this dozer-carried tank and pump system, MCC was successful in providing this supplemental (not required) dust control over all area of the longer-term stockpiles, minimizing potential issues with windblown dust.


Trapper Mining Inc., Trapper Mine


Project: Trapper Mine, 2018, Office of Surface Mining Good Neighbor Award Recipient 
Description: On September 27, 2018 Trapper received a national Good Neighbor award from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) and the National Mining Association (NMA) for its community relations efforts. The projects are listed below:


1. Loudy-Simpson Park Soccer Fields. 

Responding to a request from former Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara, a former member of the Syrian national soccer team, Trapper agreed to use mine equipment and manpower to design and carry out the base construction on two soccer fields and an adjoining parking lot at Loudy-Simpson Park. 

With the assistance of Engineering, Production and Maintenance Departments personnel, program manager Billy Nicholson went to work. Much of the work accomplished on the project was done without compensation, with many Trapper employees donating hours during off shifts and weekends. With scrapers, dozers, blades and other equipment transported from Trapper Mine to the Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig, the project area was transformed from a cow pasture to a beautiful sports facility. Trapper received able assistance for this project from Wagner Equipment and Peroulis Trucking.


2. Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Research at Trapper Mine

Populations of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in the western United States have diminished significantly. The species currently occupies less than 10% of its former range. On Trapper reclaimed lands, however, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse populations are thriving. To ensure the continued success of this species, Trapper proactively participated in a three-year research program with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the University of Wisconsin that ran from 2015 through 2017. This project followed up on previous scholarly research conducted during the 2000’s on Trapper reclaimed lands. 
In the current research program, Trapper reclaimed lands were used as the “control” for what researchers judged habitat improvements and CSTG population responses on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other private lands against. In other words, Trapper lands were considered the standard for habitat improvement programs in the region.

As part of the research, Trapper allowed the researchers to occupy Trapper reclaimed lands to trap adult female grouse on leks (strutting grounds), fit them with radio transmitters and follow them and their chicks through important life cycle stages. As monitoring revealed a successful brood hatch, four randomly selected day-old chicks were fitted with tiny transmitters and followed until three weeks of age. They were then refitted with a larger transmitter and followed through additional life cycle changes. Vegetation sampling was also conducted on nest, brood and control sites. It is hoped that the research results from this study will guide future habitat improvements to increase numbers and distribution of Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse in the Yampa Valley and beyond.

In addition to the research program discussed above, Trapper has allowed CPW researchers to trap and translocate Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse to other parts of the Western Slope of Colorado. In particular, captured birds have been transplanted into suitable habitat near Kremmling, Colorado where a thriving population with several active leks now exists.





Public Wildlife Tours. 
Throughout the month of April and into early May, Trapper employees wake up very early to voluntarily take out groups of bird, mammal and photography enthusiasts to view one of the best nature shows in North America; the mating ritual of the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse (CSTG). Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Coyotes (often attempting to snag a grouse for breakfast), various raptors (ditto) and other wildlife are also part of the viewing package. Groups are tucked into blinds set up on CSTG leks before the sun begins to peak over the eastern horizon. These groups have come from all over North America and from such places as Great Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Ecuador, Japan and many other countries around the world. The tours have become so popular that demand has outstripped available dates, but we do our best to accommodate requests. 

Monetary Contributions to Benefit Local Communities. 
Between 2009 and 2017 Trapper Mine donated approximately $711,000 in direct contributions to support communities in the Yampa Valley. Of that total, approximately $554,000 went to general community support programs, $57,000 to benefit community health and welfare programs,$54,000 to community youth activities, and $46,000 to school activities. 

Long-term benefits to the community.
Trapper’s Good Neighbor contributions discussed above have long-range benefits to the Craig and Yampa Valley communities. Generations to come will benefit from the sports facilities and other community enhancements provided by Trapper Mine. Trapper is in the process of setting up a trust with systematic donations from Trapper that will provide grant money for future community activities at a level equal to current donations after Trapper is gone. Future land owners of Trapper’s fee land and future lessees of the State land currently in Trapper’s coal lease will continue to benefit from Trapper’s reclamation efforts. Leaving the mined land in equal to or, in our opinion, better condition than pre-mined condition is truly being a good neighbor. 


Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Colowyo Coal Company L.P.


Project: Greater Sage Grouse response to Surface Mine Operation

Description: In 2017, Tri-State entered into a three-year agreement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) as part of the Collom Environmental Assessment, an outcome of the Collom expansion of the Colowyo Mine. Per this agreement, Tri-State donated 4,540 acres of land in Moffat County, an exchange that involved several agencies including the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSMRE), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado Department of Mining, Safety and Reclamation (CDRMS), Colorado State Land Board (SLB) and US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS). In addition, Tri-State provided a one-time cash donation of $150,000 to CPW. 

CPW has used the land and monetary gift to conduct ongoing habitat research and further protection efforts, specifically monitoring the response of the Greater Sage Grouse (GRSG) to surface mine mitigation. Since 2017, CPW has implemented a two-phased research study to evaluate the effectiveness of current conservation efforts focusing on measures of avoidance of the GRSG and minimizing the disturbance of their environment, processes implemented to alleviate the potential surface mine impacts to GRSG. 

Historical Studies
CPW initiated GRSG research in the Axial Basin/Danforth Hills area in 2001. CPW worked in collaboration with Colowyo Coal Company, Moffat County, and the University of Idaho to fund and conduct a 2-year research project that resulted in a master of science degree and one peer-reviewed publication. CPW also worked collaboratively with Colowyo Coal Company on a GRSG research project through Colorado State University in 2004. From 2005-2008, CPW, Colowyo Coal Company, and the University of Idaho worked collaboratively to provide funding and logistical support for a research project that produced a Ph.D. dissertation and two peer-reviewed publications. 

Phase I 
In 2017, CPW, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, began a pilot that included the supplementation of existing transmitters with VHF rump mount harness. The addition increased the sample size of adult and yearly male GRSG, monitored for lek attendance movements and survival. In preparation for Phase II of the study, a mine safety protocol for field staff was established, allowing consistent access to the study area.

Phase II
CPW continued their research efforts through 2018, focusing 1) the impact on age- and gender-specific, individual and nest survival during pre-mine construction (before impact) and 2) spatial (home range and movement) parameters for male and female GRSG at treatment and control study sites. 

In 2019, CPW will use the same parameters to ascertain the post-mine construction impact as Tri-State continues its commitment to conservation and leadership in Colorado’s outdoor network. The Colowyo Collom expansion project provides unique opportunities for CPW to study how a surface coal mine impacts the GRSG habitat.






Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., Climax Mine


Project: Lake Irwin Constructed Wetland

Category: Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Description: Climax Mine is reclaiming an area within the former Robinson tailings storage facility (TSF) and transforming it into a self-sustaining wetland. The wetland is being constructed at the site of a former 10-acre pond (known as Lake Irwin) in the northwest corner of Robinson TSF near the headwaters of Tenmile Creek and East Fork Eagle River. The area receives recharge from springs and seeps on the north side of Sheep Mountain providing the water source necessary for a permanent wetland. The Lake Irwin wetland site is being constructed to offset the loss of wetlands that are planned to be impacted by mining operations in McNulty Gulch to the southwest. Lake Irwin was chosen as an ideal location for the mitigation site due to its elevation, location and hydrology to ensure that vegetation types found in the McNulty Gulch area are replaced. The first phase of wetland construction consisting of approximately 9 acres was completed in 2018. Two additional phases are planned over the next 5 years that will increase the total size of the wetland area to approximately 36 acres.

Basis for Constructed Wetland Design

Climax is beginning a project to expand the current McNulty Gulch Overburden Stockpile Facility (OSF). This expansion will involve construction of underdrains within existing, natural drainage features to protect water quality in the gulch by maintaining hydraulic separation between springs and overlying overburden material. Constructing of these underdrains will impact existing wetland areas within the natural drainage features. As the basis for the constructed wetland site, McNulty Gulch was thoroughly inventoried with regards to plants, hydrology, and soil. The result of the inventories indicated McNulty Gulch is comprised of several different wetland communities, predominantly scrub-shrub wetlands. A total of 48 species of plants were identified in McNulty Gulch with the dominant species being rushes, sedges, bitter cress and ragworts. In addition, the water sources for McNulty Gulch Wetlands are springs and seeps that are fed by shallow groundwater, augmented by seasonal snowmelt. This is very similar to the hydrology that occurs at the Lake Irwin site.


Lake Irwin Wetland Construction

The Lake Irwin wetland is being constructed in three phases, each phase being constructed ahead of each phase of the McNulty OSF expansion. Phase I of the Lake Irwin site was completed in 2018 with a total area of approximately 9 acres. The Lake Irwin wetland construction included several components: water collection and diversion, grading and soil placement, and transplanting wetland plants grown at a nursery and collected from McNulty Gulch. Surface water originating from springs on Sheep Mountain was diverted to the Lake Irwin area to sustain the wetland. This surface water as well as snowmelt runoff is contained in a storage pond surrounding the wetland which then feeds the wetland through gate-controlled culverts. These sources will provide consistent water allowing the wetland area to remain wet through the growing season. Excess water from the pond and wetland area can be diverted to either the Climax operation process water system or to the Eagle basin. Preparation of the constructed wetland surface area began with excavating historical tailings and relocating that material to one of Climax’s active TSFs and placing subsoil. The area was then graded to allow for surface drainage followed by placement of topsoil sufficient to sustain a diverse community of wetland vegetation. Over 10,000 individual plants were installed in the summer of 2018, with additional planting scheduled for 2019. The plant species and totals are shown in the table below. The willows originated from cuttings transplanted from McNulty Gulch. Number of Individuals installed in 2018:

  • Beaked sedge Carex utriculata 3,456
  • Tufted hairgrass Deschampsia ceaspitosa 509
  • Mountain rush Juncus articus ssp 379
  • Willows Salix ssp 6000

The Lake Irwin constructed wetland will be maintained by Climax and will follow a schedule of inspections biannually throughout the first year of completion and then annually thereafter to ensure the area becomes self-sustaining. These inspections include plant plots and transects that will be monitored and inventoried to assess growth. 



Current Partners in Sustainability: Central Colorado Conservancy, National Forest Foundation, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Blue River Watershed Group, Eagle Valley Land Trust, Lake County Open Space Initiative, Lake County, Summit County, Eagle River Watershed Council 




Ouray Silver Mines Inc., Revenue-Virginius Mine


2018 Winner of Hardrock Best of the Best Award

Project: Sustainable Practices Involving Tailings & Waste Rock Reuse and Water Management
Description: The project being nominated for the CMA Sustainability award is a Sustainable Practices Involving Tailings and Waste Rock Reuse and Water Management by Ouray Silver Mines, Inc. (OSMI) at its Revenue-Virginius Mine located in Ouray County, Colorado. 

Tailings and Waste Rock Management.
OSMI worked to solve a materials handling challenge by identifying a beneficial reuse for its waste rock and tailings generated by its mining operations. In 2016, OSMI began evaluating the potential by-product use of tailings generated from the milling process. After numerous tests on the tailings, including both metallurgical testing as well as previous operations, it was found the tailings were benign in the environment with high neutralization potential. Technical Revision 9 was submitted to the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) in 2017 to allow OSMI to mix tailings with crushed waste rock to be used as road base and compacted fill material as a permitted activity under its Reclamation Permit No. M-2012-032.

All waste rock previously mined by OSMI since the mine restart in 20112 has been donated and used by Ouray County and the US Forest Service (USFS) for road base and fill materials along County Road 361 which is a highly traveled access for Summer tourism to access Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass to Telluride. 

OSMI subjects the materials to rigorous testing to ensure the they pass leaching tests (i.e., SPLP testing) as required by permits and use-agreements. The ability to mix tailings with waste rock and donate or sell the end product will reduce dry stack tailings impoundments by 30% or more over the current 7-year mine life and future work is being contemplated on other by-product uses of the benign tailings for neutralization of historic acid mine dumps and admixtures to natural lining systems. 

This project provides an alternative to on-site disposal of waste rock and tailings, which can be challenging at a remote mountainous mine site with limited surface area. This practice provides Ouray County and the USFS with a sustainable source of road base that otherwise would have been sourced from elsewhere in the area creating additional environmental impacts. The goal of this project is to become zero mill-waste facility reducing the need for an on-site tailings disposal facility. 

Water Management
Keeping with the theme of sustainability, OSMI has embarked on a multi-year project to evaluate and construct a passive mine water treatment system to manage water from the underground mine workings at its Revenue-Virginius Mine. The project is designed to 1) treat mine water to achieve Colorado Discharge Permit System (CDPS) permit limits during operation of the mine; and 2) establish a low maintenance, low cost, sustainable treatment system that will be operational during the post-closure reclamation phase of the project.

The project was initiated in response to water quality concerns and a notice of violation issued to the prior operators of the mine. When OSMI management took control of the operations in 2016, it voluntarily installed a passive treatment system to treat mine water prior to infiltration to groundwater. This passive system was effective at achieving groundwater standards per OSMI’s DRMS permit, however, there were ongoing concerns that the water may not meet surface water standards with the potential hydrologic connection to Sneffels Creek. To address this issue, OSMI entered into an agreement with CDPHE to design and install an enhanced passive mine water treatment system at the site with the goal of achieving surface water standards, which are more stringent than groundwater standards. 

In the Spring of 2018, OSMI installed a pilot-scale passive water treatment system at the mine to evaluate different treatment technologies. OSMI partnered with the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) to conduct jar and column tests to evaluate various removal processes and efficiencies. The pilot system operated between March and October 2018 and the results from that study are being used to design and construct a full-scale system that will be constructed in 2019 and commissioned in 2020. 

The system is designed to treat mine water at flow rates that fluctuate between 200 to 1000 gallons per minute (gpm) prior to discharge to Sneffels Creek by way of a permitted outfall. The system uses a combination of aerobic and anaerobic treatment cells to remove constituents in the water such as cadmium, copper, zinc, and manganese.





Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., Climax Molybdenum Company, Henderson Operations


Project: Henderson Sustainable Development and Entrepreneurial Challenge
Description: In 1968, when initial development of the Henderson Mine began, environmental and social considerations, in consultation with stakeholder groups, were integrated into mine planning in what is known as the “Experiment in Ecology”. This was an innovative concept at the time, before modern environmental legislation and, the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted.

The current Mine life goes through 2039, at which time closure and reclamation activities will commence. The existing closure concept includes a conventional approach to demolish buildings and reclaim and revegetate the land. Many other innovative opportunities are sure to exist that could provide a lasting benefit to communities and the environment. Therefore, in the spirit of the original “Experiment in Ecology”, Henderson Mine has collaborated with the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) to hold a student challenge with the following overall objective:


Develop a concept for sustainable repurposing of the Henderson Mine surface facilities and land holdings that provides a socioeconomic benefit to the surrounding communities, is economically sustainable, socially acceptable and provides a positive and lasting legacy in the state of Colorado.

This challenge consists of multidisciplinary teams of students at CSM who have been competing amongst each other throughout the semester by imagining out of the box concepts that meet the objective above. To ensure a robust stakeholder process, the student teams have proposed their concepts to a group of community members, county officials and Henderson/Freeport-McMoRan staff. These presentations were done in front of a “Shark Tank”-like atmosphere where a panel of judges determined which teams moved on to the next stage of the competition.

The competition will culminate in early December with 5 teams presenting their concepts to the panel of stakeholders and judges. The winning team will receive $25,000 and the winning concept considered as a possibility for closure of the mine site. However, as markets and technology change, this competition will likely be repeated over time to continue looking for concepts that will provide a legacy contribution to the county as well as the state. The concepts which have made it through to the final round are:

  • A pumped hydroelectric storage facility
  • A data center and technology campus
  • A comprehensive automotive testing facility
  • An anaerobic digestion bio-gas plant, composting facility, and mushroom farm
  • A community college with an emphasis on environmental science and water treatment 


Wildlife Restoration Project: Henderson maintains a forest management plan with the Colorado State Forest Service to guide forest management activities in voluntarily addressing the effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle on the lodgepole pine, and the infection and spread of dwarf mistletoe, located on the property. Over 1,700 acres have been harvested over the last decade with over 1,000 acres of mature pine remaining. 

The intent of the forest management plan is to salvage not only dead trees, but trees where mortality is imminent, reduce dwarf mistletoe infection levels and rate of spread, and nurture established regeneration and the non-pine species present. Successful implementation is intended to foster the creation and maintenance of healthy, diverse tree stands on the property over the long term.

Along with this forest management plan, Henderson also submitted projects related to the URAD Valley Restoration, Pollinator Gardens, Invasive Species Management, Bat Habitat, and increasing employee awareness of Boreal Toads to the Wildlife Habitat Council for certification. At an award ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland, in early November, Henderson was recognized at the Silver level in the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Conservation Certification program. Henderson also received the 2018 Invasive Species Project Award for weed management activities conducted at both the Mine and Mill sites. 




Newmont Mining Corporation, Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company




Project: CC&V Mine Tours - A Vehicle for Mining Education
Description: Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V) promotes sustainable practices and builds positive public perceptions of the mining industry by offering public mine tours in partnership with the non-profit Victor Lowell Thomas Museum (VLTM) in the historic mining community of Victor Colorado. This unique and transparent experience offers the public an opportunity to see, touch and hear the modern mining environment.
Check out the tour schedule here!

  • The mine tours give the public an educational experience at an operating mine on issues such as mine safety, security, environmental protection, mine reclamation, operating excellence, and responsible mining.
  • Visitors, including school tours from grade school through post-graduate studies, experience the modern age mine life cycle from exploration and development, through operation and processing, to active concurrent reclamation.
CC&V also sponsors and supports the Catamount Institute’s Young Environmental Steward (YES) program. The YES program is a voluntary environmental club at Pikes Peak regional schools. 
  • This support includes funding for the institute to develop environmental stewardship curriculum and resource kits, mine tours for the YES clubs, and field excursions with hands-on environmental interaction. 
  • These environmental field trips include water quality and aquatic biology investigations, wildlife habitat restoration, forest management, and mined land reclamation. 
  • This year CC&V facilitated field excursions for YES students to participate in legacy mine land reclamation by participating in soil amendment and reseeding activities, as well as experimenting with small scale stormwater management features and exploring forest fire ecology. 



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