On January 26, 2021, it was announced that three hazardous mines that were abandoned 50 years ago were successfully reclaimed in 2020 in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains.
Reclamation of the mines also improved the health and habitat of the Little Mountain area. During a wildlife survey conducted prior to reclamation, as many as 13 bat species were documented to be present in and around the area of the Horseshoe Mine. The mine closure plan required ingress and egress protection measures be taken to preserve continued use of the mine by the bat populations residing there.
This restoration work happened thanks to a shared commitment from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the State of Wyoming to enhance public safety and regenerate the health of public lands.
From the early 1950s through 1970, the Little Mountain area in the northern Bighorn Mountains experienced a period of uranium exploration and underground mining. The surface and underground disturbance caused by this mining was never reclaimed, resulting in numerous physical and radiological hazards left behind.
“We’re pleased to have partnered with the State of Wyoming to remove the dangerous physical and radiochemical hazards from this heavily used recreation area, creating a safer environment for the public,” said BLM Cody Field Manager Cade Powell.
The State of Wyoming, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ̶ Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Division submitted the reclamation project proposal to the BLM.
The approved project authorized the reclamation of four uranium mine sites, including the 40-acre Lisbon Mine site, the 20-acre Titan Mine site, and two 10-acre Horseshoe Mine sites. Funds to complete this project were made available through Wyoming’s AML program.
“We greatly appreciated the help and collaboration of the BLM Cody Field Office in completing this much needed reclamation project,” said Wyoming AML Division’s Marcia Murdock, who has been involved with this project since its inception.
“While there are many other abandoned mines remaining on Wyoming’s landscape that also require reclamation, our hope is that through cooperation with landowners, the BLM, and other land managers, we can make these sites safe for the visiting public, Wyoming’s citizens, and our wildlife. Our work is not done,” she added.
Contractors from Ten Sleep and Worland, Wyoming, conducted the reclamation work, which included backfilling and closing all hazardous mine openings, backfilling sinkholes, plugging drillholes, reducing and removing dangerous highwalls, and burying radioactive spoil piles and soils. The entire 80 acres of disturbances were recontoured, drainages reestablished, and all areas reseeded using native seed mixes suitable for the area.
Photo of Titan Mine is courtesy of Gretchen Hurley/BLM.