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EPA Cleanup Decision For Wellington Oro Mine

Release Date: 10/28/2002
Contact Information:
Victor Ketellapper 303 312-6578

      Denver -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced cleanup plans for the Wellington Oro mine site located in French Gulch near Breckenridge, Colorado which is part of the 1,800 acre proposed open space acquisition by the Town of Breckenridge and Summit County. The plan calls for semi-passive water treatment plant with settling ponds for the acid mine drainage from the mine pool.

The cleanup plan will improve water quality by reducing the impacts of zinc and cadmium contamination from the mine to the French Creek and Blue River. The semi-passive water treatment plant will meet the water quality goals for protection of a brown trout fishery in the Blue River. The plan consists of collecting water from a mine seep and pumping it to a treatment building where lime and a flocculent will be added to neutralize the acidity and remove the metals. The treated water will be discharged to a settling pond to allow the solids to settle out. Clean water will overflow from the pond into French Creek or into the groundwater. The treated water will provide additional benefits by reducing the acidity and enhancing the flow of water into French Creek and the Blue River further downstream.

The treatment system will be operated seven days a week/24 hours a day until discharges from the mine seep no longer pose a threat to the environment. The project schedule will begin with work on the design of the treatment system. Construction is planned for the summer of 2004 with the treatment system becoming operational in 2005.

In the late 1880's, the Wellington Oro mine complex was the largest mining operation in the valley. The majority of the lead-zinc-copper-silver sulfide ores were extracted between the 1880's and the 1930's. During this period, the underground mine workings consisted of more than 12 miles of tunnels, adits, drifts, stopes and crosscuts. Sporadic mining and mill operations occurred from the late 1940's to the early 1970's, and mining ceased in 1972. The site was first addressed by EPA in September 1998 through actions to consolidate and cap surface mine wastes.