Field Trip #1

Mine Closure Across Northern Nevada - 3 Days - Pre-conference

This field trip is planned to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see 30 years of mine closure work across Utah and Nevada accompanied by experienced closure specialists who actually were involved in closure work at each of the sites visit. In addition to the mine visits, during the bus rides between sites we have a program of activities that will allow the participants to share their experiences. You can tell your boss there will be very little downtime on this trip and that you will be learning continually. By working together you will make new network connections and learn from each other.

The group will meet in Salt Lake City on the evening of September 25 at the Salt Lake City Airport Hilton Garden Inn and leave on the morning of September 26, stay in Elko, Nevada on Day 1 and in Winnemucca, Nevada on Day 2, and arriving in Reno on Day 3.

Dates: September 26 to September 28

Participants will be expected to bring safety boots, long sleeved shirts and long pants, high visibility clothes or vests, and safety glasses. Local (or nearby) participants are requested to bring their own hardhats (we will supply the rest).

Field Trip Price: US$1,500*

*We are offering this field trip at cost. Ground transportation from Salt Lake City to Reno, meals for three days, and four nights (Salt Lake City, Elko, Winnemucca, Reno) in hotels are included in the price.

Day 1 - Salt Lake City, Utah to Elko, Nevada

On day 1, this field trip will visit one of the largest tailings impoundments in the U.S. Rio Tinto Kennecott’s Tailings Impoundments are constructed in two adjoining areas – the South Tailings Impoundment and the North Tailings Impoundment. The historical South Tailings Impoundment operated from 1906 until 2001. The impoundment is 5,700 acres (~2,300 ha) with a height of over 220 feet (67 meters), and stores 2.3 billion tons (2.1 billion metric tons) of tailings.

Beginning in 1999, tailings deposition began transitioning from the South Impoundment to the new North Impoundment. The interior surface of the South Impoundment was substantially reclaimed between 1998 and 2010. Significant portions of the North Impoundment embankment slope have been progressively reclaimed, beginning in 2011 and continuing to the present.

(for those of you who arrive early, you can visit the source of the tailings and see one of the largest man-made open-pit excavation looks like up close and personal. Visit the Rio Tinto Kennecott Visitor Experience at the Bingham Canyon Mine for more information.) 

The group will travel across the Bonneville Salt Flats – where numerous land speed records have been set – before heading to the Rain mine near Elko, Nevada. 

In the early 2000’s, evapotranspiration (ET) covers were placed on the heap leach and waste rock facility (WRF) at the Rain Mine. The WRF is located a relatively high altitude (2,020 m above mean sea level) where annual precipitation, primarily in the form of snow, is estimated at 442 mm. Mature vegetation was established by 2011 and estimated percolation through the WRF was about 12% of annual average precipitation (2011–2019). The high percolation rate occurred because infiltration through ET cover is difficult to manage in slow snowmelt hydrology setting. Consequently, a the ET cover was replaced with a geosynthetic cover over approximately 40% of the WRF, particularly where drifting snow accumulates.

The group will spend the night Shutters Hotel in Elko, Nevada.

Rain Mine - Before and After
Rio Tinto Kennecott Copper Smelter and Tailings Impoundment

Day 2 - Elko, Nevada to Winnemucca, Nevada

On Day 2, the group will depart Elko, Nevada and travel to the McCoy-Cove mine south of Battle Mountain, Nevada.

Gold was first discovered in the McCoy mining district in 1914 and significant mining began in the 1930s. In 1986, modern mining began with the development of the McCoy pit in 1986. Mining in the Cove open pit began two years later and along with development of underground operations. Gold was recovered via a run-of-mine heap leach from 1986 to 2000. The mill facility operated between 1989 and 2000 to process high grade oxide and sulfide, primarily from the underground operations. I-80 Gold is now in advanced-stage underground development of the remaining gold resource at the site. Reclamation at the site began in 2000 at the first of three heap leach pads and has included closure of all three pads, heap leach ponds, and 92% of the tailings impoundment. The Cove pit has refilled with groundwater to a dept of greater than 175 m. The McCoy pit is dry.

The group will then visit the Phoenix mine (including some remaining facilities of the Copper Canyon mine). At Phoenix, the group will see several decades of reclamation and closure work on waste rock dumps and tailings. Mining at Phoenix began in the 1860’s with the development of copper deposits. In the early 1900’s placer gold was discovered in the area. Large scale open pit gold mining began in the early 1990’s by Battle Mountain Gold Company, which was acquired by Newmont Mining company in 2003. Since January, the mine has been operated by Nevada Gold Mines, LLC, a joint venture between Newmont and Barrick.

The group will visit the in-situ cover monitoring project on the leach pad, and learn how that study and monitoring is contributing to better design of covers for closure. Then the group will visit the seepage collection system and discuss how having a good ET cover can reduce the amount of water you have to manage at a facility. Finally, the group will hear about the ongoing work being done to continually update and modify the site closure plan.

After a long day, the group will stay in Winnemucca and enjoy a family-style Basque meal at the Martin Hotel. 

McCoy-Cove Reclaimed Mill Site and Heap Leach Pads
Cove Pit Lake
Phoenix - Waste Rock Dump Reclamation
Phoenix - Revegetation

Day 3 - Winnemucca, Nevada to Reno, Nevada

On Day 3, the group will depart Winnemucca, Nevada and travel to the nearby Marigold mine, currently owned by SSR Mining. 

In production since 1989, Marigold is a large run-of-mine heap leach operation with several open pits, waste rock stockpiles, leach pads, a carbon absorption facility, and a carbon processing and gold refining facility. The site has both operating and closed heap leach pads and waste rock dumps. The site also has a closed tailings impoundment. The site has won two Excellence in Reclamation awards in 1999 and 2007.

The trip will then visit the closed Lone Tree Gold Mine owned by I-80 Gold. Lone Tree is a past-producing mine with historic production of approximately 4.2 million ounces of gold and is host to substantial processing infrastructure, most of which is currently in care and maintenance. There is a large lake that has formed in the pit since mining ceased. The site won Excellence in Reclamation awards in 2008.

This field trip will finish at the conference venue, the Nugget Casino Resort in Reno.

Lone Tree Mine
Marigold Mine (source: SSR Mining)
Lone Tree Pit Lake (source: I-80 Gold)

Field Trip Leader - Bill Upton

Bill Upton
Senior Associate, Mining, Haley Aldrich, Inc., USA

Bill has 45 years of experience in all aspects of environmental management of mineral exploration, mining, and mineral processing operations including uranium, coal, mercury, gold, silver and copper mining. His career covered the management, direction and corporate oversight for major mine permitting; regulatory compliance; mine reclamation and closure; and ESG policy development and implementation for companies including Homestake Mining, Union Pacific Resources, Placer Dome and Barrick Gold. This experience covered mining projects and operations in the U.S. and several international jurisdictions. Bill has served on numerous industry committees including the International Cyanide Management Institute and International Network for Acid Prevention Operators Committees, the National Mining Association and several State and Regional Environmental Committees. In his private life Bill served several years on the Northeast Great Basin Advisory Council to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as well Local Land Planning Groups in Northeast Nevada and Southwest Idaho.