You are on page 1of 5

SME Annual Meeting

Feb. 23 - 26, 2014, Salt Lake City, UT

Preprint 14-035

SUSTAINABLE CLOSURE OF TWO FORMER URANIUM MINES

L. K. Holder, Golder Assoc., Inc., Redmond, WA


F. Shuri, Golder Assoc., Inc., Redmond, WA
B. Nielsen, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Phoenix, AZ
R. Jones, Barrick Gold Corp., Salt Lake City, UT

ABSTRACT remediation. The two stockpiles contained a combined volume of


almost one million yd3 of material. The pit pond occupies
The White King / Lucky Lass Superfund site consists of two approximately 13 acres and contains about 80 million gallons of water
former uranium mines in south-central Oregon. The remedy included (Figure 4).
consolidating two large mining overburden stockpiles that contained
low levels of radioactivity and heavy metals by moving over 700,000
cubic yards of material and then capping the combined stockpile. An
innovative armored cap design was used to minimize the stockpile
footprint and thereby prevent disturbing existing wetlands. In addition,
the stockpile was designed to merge into the surrounding topography.
The remedy also included stream restoration and development of new
wetlands. The stream was returned to its pre-mining channel, with the
addition of hydraulic features to create new wetlands. The wetlands
have greatly enhanced the ecological value of the remedy and the site.
INTRODUCTION
The White King and Lucky Lass mines Superfund site is one of
only two uranium mine sites on the National Priorities List under
Superfund. The site was remediated by the former owners/operators Figure 2. Site Features.
of the site, primarily Tronox (formerly Kerr-McGee Chemical), Western
Nuclear, Inc., and Fremont Lumber under the oversight of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the U.S. Forest Service
(USFS), the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ),
and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE).
Site Description
The White King / Lucky Lass Mines Superfund Site (the Site) is
located in south-central Oregon, approximately 17 miles northwest of
Lakeview, Oregon (Figure 1). The Site consists of two former uranium
mines, located within 1 mile of each other (Figure 2). Portions of the
Site are within the Fremont National Forest, managed by the USFS,
and portions are on private lands owned by Fremont Lumber and the Figure 3. Protore Stockpile (foreground) and Overburden Stockpile
Coppin family trust. (background) Prior to Remediation.

Figure 4. White King Pond.


Augur Creek runs south through the eastern side of the White
King Mine area and receives discharge from the White King Pond.
Major features at the Lucky Lass Mine include the Lucky Lass
Pond and the overburden stockpile (Figure 5). The Lucky Lass
overburden stockpile covers about 14 acres and contains
approximately 260,000 yd3 of material. This pond covers
approximately 5 acres.
Figure 1. Project Location.
Site History
Prior to remediation, major features at the White King Mine The White King and Lucky Lass uranium deposits were
included the White King Pond (formed when water collected in an discovered in mid-1955. The local individuals who made the
open-pit mine), the so-called protore stockpile, and the overburden discoveries conducted exploratory work and some initial mining.
stockpile. Both stockpiles are actually overburden material. Figure 3 Mining began in earnest after September 1955. The Lakeview Mining
shows the two stockpiles in the White King meadow prior to Company began significant underground ore production in 1958 at the
1 Copyright © 2014 by SME
SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 23 - 26, 2014, Salt Lake City, UT

much larger White King Mine. In April 1959, Lakeview Mining For White King Pond, the ROD (USEPA 2001) determined that
converted the White King Mine to open pit mining. Open-pit mining at “… sediment cleanup is not warranted at this time. A sediment
the White King Mine continued until December 1959. Open-pit mining cleanup action, if determined necessary, will be documented in a future
commenced at the Lucky Lass Mine in 1956. ESD [explanation of significant differences] or ROD amendment.” The
ROD did not require any remedial action for Augur Creek or the Lucky
Lass Pond.
PROJECT OBJECTIVES
The remedial activities and associated design objectives for this
project were:
• Recontour the White King protore stockpile so that it is no
longer within the Augur Creek floodplain
• Excavate the White King Mine haul road, a portion of the
Lucky Lass stockpile, and certain off-pile areas where there
is evidence of mine-related waste, and place these materials
on the recontoured protore stockpile
• Regrade remaining soil and waste rock to prevent erosion
and promote vegetation, and cover disturbed areas with 3
inches of soil
• Excavate the White King overburden stockpile, which
consists predominantly of clay-like material, and place it on
the recontoured protore stockpile to form a low-permeability
layer
• Place cover soil and topsoil on the Consolidated Stockpile
Figure 5. Lucky Lass Pond and Overburden Stockpiles. surface sufficient to support vegetation, and seed the topsoil
surface
Lakeview Mining discontinued commercial operations at both • Place topsoil, and reseed those areas where soil has been
mines by early 1960. After 1961, sporadic small-scale mining removed
conducted by others continued at both mines. Exploration activities at • Adjust the pH of the White King Pond as necessary for
the site occurred through the early 1980s. beneficial use
The Site was listed on the National Priorities list on April 25, 1995 • Perform a Supplemental Environmental Project, consisting of
as a Federal Facility. The Remedial Investigation (RI) was completed constructing wetlands in the Augur Creek floodplain, to
in 1997 (Weston 1997), and the Feasibility Study (FS) was completed enhance the environmental value of the project.
in 1999 (Weston 1999). The USEPA issued a Record of Decision APPROACH
(ROD; USEPA 2001) on September 30, 2001.
The approach to sustainable remediation of this site included the
Subsequent to the ROD, a group of Potentially Responsible
following:
Parties (PRPs) agreed to take primary responsibility for implementing
remedial action and post-remediation monitoring at the site. The PRPs • Field determination of contamination, both before and during
retained Golder Associates Inc. (Golder) to perform remedial design, remedial action
construction management, and construction quality assurance (CQA) • Minimizing the footprint of the Consolidated Stockpile at the
monitoring for the remedial action. White King Mine
PROBLEM DEFINITION • Low-maintenance cap design
• Merging the profile of the Consolidated Stockpile into the
The stockpiles at both mines and some off-pile soils contained surrounding topography
radioisotopes with radiation emissions above background levels. The • Use of overburden materials as a low-permeability layer
primary remedial action objectives (RAOs) for the site were first, to • Direct measurement of sediment bioavailability
prevent direct contact with site soils having constituents of concern • Returning Augur Creek to its natural streambed
(COCs) above cleanup levels, and second, to prevent migration of • Creation of wetlands in the White King meadow.
COCs from site soils into groundwater.
Field Determination of Contamination
In the ROD, the USEPA determined that the primary COCs were Normally in site remediation, determination of soil contamination
radium-226 (Ra-226) and arsenic (As). Uranium isotopes were also and cleanup verification is accomplished by laboratory analysis of soil
COCs, but cleanup levels were not assigned to them because they samples. This process takes days, if expedited, and weeks, if not. For
were co-located with Ra-226, and Ra-226 was the primary contributor this project, on the other hand, determination of cleanup by real-time
to risk. field measurement using a gamma radiation meter allowed the
Cleanup levels were set as follows: remediation construction to proceed without the typical delay of waiting
for results. This shortened the project duration and was a significant
White King Mine soil factor in allowing remediation to be completed in only two construction
As 442 mg/kg seasons. This approach also allowed more precise delineation of
Ra-226 6.8 pCi/g removal areas than widely-spaced soil samples would, and thereby
provided a high level of confidence that all impacted soil had been
Lucky Lass Mine soil removed, while minimizing the area of disturbance.
As 38 mg/kg
Ra-226 3.6 pCi/g First, a study was conducted to correlate COC concentrations to
gamma radiation levels (Figure 6). It was also demonstrated that, due
The low pH of White King Pond, resulting from acid groundwater, to co-location of COCs, achieving the Ra-226 cleanup level was
was preventing development of natural biological habitat within the sufficient to also meet the arsenic cleanup level. Using these
pond and around the shoreline. Because of differences in the correlations, a gamma survey was conducted to determine the off-pile
chemistry of the ore bodies between the two mines, the Lucky Lass areas where soil needed to be removed and placed in the
Pond did not have a pH problem and had robust aquatic habitat. Consolidated Stockpile (Figure 7) (Golder 2004). The precision of this
2 Copyright © 2014 by SME
SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 23 - 26, 2014, Salt Lake City, UT

survey allowed more precise design of the dimensions of the this methodology to two mine reclamation projects that involve waste
Consolidated Stockpile that would have been possible with typical pre- rock and tailings other than uranium, and have had functional success
design sampling and analysis. to date. At the White King site, use of an armor gravel / topsoil mixture
not only significantly reduced the need for ongoing maintenance, but
allowed steeper side slopes, up to 3H:1V. This in turn decreased the
footprint of the stockpile, reducing both the cost of the cover and the
area of impacted land. As a result of the reduced stockpile footprint, it
was possible to avoid filling wetlands immediately adjacent to the
stockpile; these wetlands would have been destroyed if the ROD
design approach had been used (Figure 8).

Figure 6. Gamma Correlation Line.

Figure 8. Wetlands Preserved by Consolidated Stockpile Design.


At the request of the USFS, the Consolidated Stockpile was
designed to be visually compatible with the surrounding topography
(Figure 9). The goal is that, once natural vegetation has established
on the stockpile, the stockpile will not detract from the natural beauty of
the area.

Figure 7. Gamma Measurement in Field.


Gamma radiation measurements were used to verify cleanup in
real time during construction. Gamma measurements were used
immediately in the field to track cleanup progress. Under the agreed
cleanup criteria, cleanup verification required area averaging. To do
this, field measurements were sent to the office daily, where the data Figure 9. Design Rendering of Consolidated Stockpile
was analyzed and mapped, and the maps were sent to the field the To minimize the potential for groundwater contamination from the
day after the measurements. Consolidated Stockpile, several feet of low-permeability material was
Stockpile Design placed directly below the cover. However, instead of importing clay for
The conceptual design of the Consolidated Stockpile in the ROD the cap, it was found that the overburden materials themselves could
envisioned 5H:1V side slopes, with the slope determined by the need serve as the low-permeability layer. Hydraulic conductivity was
for erosion control. However, using principles developed by the U.S. measured on undisturbed samples from the protore and overburden
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) for closure of uranium mill stockpiles and from test pads constructed to evaluate soil placement
tailings sites (USNRC 1990), Golder designed a low-maintenance, methods. The results showed that the stockpile soils could achieve
erosion-resistant cap with steeper side slopes. Covers designed in this low permeabilities on the order of 10-8 to 10-7 cm/sec over a wide range
way have potentially no maintenance. Golder had previously applied of moisture and density conditions.

3 Copyright © 2014 by SME


SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 23 - 26, 2014, Salt Lake City, UT

White King Pond Study of the meadow hold standing water due to the topography after
The agencies required evaluating the need for remediation of excavation, which collects seepage from natural springs, providing
sediment in White King Pond. A common approach would have been other wetlands in addition to the areas created by the wetlands berms.
sampling and analysis of the sediments, followed by modeling of the
bioavailability of contaminants in the sediments. Instead, Golder
proposed direct measurement of biological availability via study of
uptake of contaminants by freshwater mussels. This approach was
accepted by the agencies. The uptake study avoided many
uncertainties inherent in the typical approach, and resulted in agency
acceptance of the conclusion (that sediment remediation was not
required) more quickly than would normally be expected.
White King Pond Neutralization
The White King Pond formed when the mine pit filled with water
following the cessation of mining activity. It is not a natural lake or
pond. The average water depth is approximately 18 ft, with a
maximum depth of about 70 ft. Groundwater that is impacted by acid
rock drainage enters the pond through the former mine shaft at the
deepest point. The pH in the pond is monitored at least annually,
producing pH profiles with depth at several locations in the pond. This
monitoring generally shows a very slow acidification of the pond,
resulting in the need for periodic neutralization. Lime was added to the
pond in 1998, 2004, and 2009. Pond acidification appears to be
slowing, either by reduced acidic input or from biological neutralization. Figure 10. Aerial View of Remediated White King Site.
Based on recent data, the next need for neutralization is estimated to
RESULTS
be no earlier than 2015.
Remediation of the site eliminated potential risks to human health
Augur Creek and Wetland Creation
and the environment and returned the area to a condition of beneficial
During mining, a portion of Augur Creek had been confined by use. Wetlands were constructed at the site to enhance the ecological
berms and diverted around the White King meadow. Once the off-pile and biological value of the site and to restore the area to pre-mining
removal and stockpile consolidation were complete, this berm was conditions.
breached to allow Augur Creek to flow again into the meadow. The
intent was to allow Augur Creek to return to natural flow using the The stockpile design has been highly successful at resisting
historic, pre-mining channel locations in the meadow where possible. erosion. The Consolidated Stockpile was completed in 2006; as of
2013, only negligible erosion has occurred. Annual groundwater
As a “Supplemental Environmental Project”, wetlands were monitoring has been completed at the site; additional groundwater
created in the White King meadow once the overburden stockpile was monitoring will be performed in 2014 as part of the five-year review.
removed (Golder 2006a). The purpose and environmental benefit of
the project was enhancement of habitat associated with Augur Creek By use of field measurements to determine cleanup and close
and White King Pond. The wetland areas were developed by communication with the agencies, the remedial construction was
constructing low, broad soil berms where water could collect. The completed in two seasons. In a typical remediation project, agency
gently undulating meadow surface produced small-scale mounds and approvals can significantly delay construction. At this site, those types
ridges that projected 1 or 2 ft above the wetlands providing a greater of delays could easily have led to a third field season with additional
diversity of habitat. mobilization/demobilization costs and impact to the site and adjacent
areas.
A wetland seed mix of sedges, rushes, and grasses was applied
to the ground surface within the wetland boundaries. In addition, 100 The biological study of White King Pond (Golder 2006b)
willow cuttings and five whole willow bushes, collected from elsewhere determined that sediment remediation was not required. These results
on the site, were planted around the perimeter of the wetlands where were accepted by the USEPA.
soils were expected to remain moist throughout the year. An upland
seed mix, also used elsewhere on the site for revegetation as part of Cattle grazing in the White King meadow initially challenged the
remedial action restoration, was spread on mounded areas within the recovery of the meadow and threatened the wetlands. However,
wetlands, around the perimeter of the wetlands, and on the adjacent improvements to perimeter fencing maintenance by the USFS
meadow surface. Twenty-eight large tree stumps, collected during eventually were successful in keeping stray cattle out of the meadow,
clearing and grubbing, were placed on the meadow to the east of with the result that the meadow and wetlands are now thriving
White King Pond. The stumps were randomly placed in the meadow (Figure 11).
and wetland areas to provide a diversity of habitat.
Water for the wetlands area has been sufficient to maintain the
wetlands year-round since construction, and is supplied by:
• Augur Creek, redirected to flow through the White King
meadow
• Discharge from the White King Pond
• A diversion ditch around the northwest portion of the White
King highwall and runoff from the Consolidated Stockpile
cover and surrounding area, flowing through the White King
meadow
• Natural springs in the White King meadow
• Precipitation falling directly on the wetlands
The construction created approximately 7 combined acres of
wetlands at the normal water level (Figure 10). The areal extent of the
wetlands varies seasonally, and is greatest during spring. Other areas Figure 11. Typical Wetland 5 Years After Construction.

4 Copyright © 2014 by SME


SME Annual Meeting
Feb. 23 - 26, 2014, Salt Lake City, UT

REFERENCES
1. Golder (Golder Associates Inc.). 2004. Gamma Radiation Survey
Report for the White King / Lucky Lass Mines Superfund Site,
Redmond, WA, September 23, 2004.
2. Golder. 2006a. Report on the Supplemental Environmental
Project at the White King / Lucky Lass Mines Superfund Site,
Redmond, WA, December 8, 2006.
3. Golder. 2006b. Report on White King Pond and Augur Creek
Study at the White King / Lucky Lass Mines Superfund Site,
Redmond, WA, September 12, 2006.
4. Weston (Weston, Roy F., Inc.). 1997. Final Remedial
Investigation Report, White King / Lucky Lass Mines Site,
Lakeview, Oregon, Kerr-McGee Corporation, Oklahoma City, OK,
August 25, 1997.
5. Weston. 1999. Final Feasibility Study, White King / Lucky Lass
Mines Site, Lakeview, Oregon, Kerr-McGee Corporation,
Oklahoma City, OK, August 27, 1999.
6. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2001. White
King / Lucky Lass Superfund Site Record of Decision, Office of
Environmental Cleanup, USEPA Region 10, Seattle, WA,
September 2001.
7. USNRC (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission). 1990. Final Staff
Technical Position on Design of Erosion Protection Covers for
Stabilization of Uranium Mill Tailings Sites, USNRC, Washington,
D.C.

5 Copyright © 2014 by SME