bulletin board
events calendar
business directory

best friend
news briefs



Heavy equipment pulled from the Azurite Mine
Biggest part of cleanup complete

Two and a half months after they started to snow-plow their way into the abandoned Azurite Mine, Palm Construction Inc. of Winthrop has finished their part of cleaning up the mine’s waste and pulled out their equipment.

With 10 to 12 people at the camp for much of the high mountain summer season and a lot of earth-moving gear, Palm Construction first re-arranged and stablized the mine tailings and waste rock, which have elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc, some of which has been seeping into nearby Mill Creek.

Jerry Palm explained that the construction workers then covered 230,000 square feet of tailings in felt, followed by a 40-mil plastic liner, another layer of felt, and a plastic grid to hold things in place. Then came 15,000 yards of talus rock to give it a more natural appearance.

With the heavy equipment gone, Methow Valley Ranger District workers will replant vegetation in disturbed soils, according to Forest Service geologist and environmental engineer Rod Lentz.

Finally, Forest Service personnel will be monitoring to make sure that Azurite mine residue has stopped seeping into Mill Creek. “It remains to be seen” how successful the efforts will be, said Lentz. Mill Creek eventually drains into the Skagit River.

The abandoned site, between Canyon Creek and the Methow River, 19 miles northwest of Mazama on national forest land, contained five underground mine openings, two main waste rock piles, a tailings pile, and the remains of the former mill building foundation. An abandoned office building is located down slope of the mill foundation.

“The buildings remain,” said Lentz, and larger pieces of old gear were left in place.

“The Azurite Mine was mainly active from 1918 through 1939, producing mostly gold. Asarco--formerly American Smelting and Refining Company--leased the property in 1934. They constructed a mill with cyanide leach vats, and an aerial tramway. Asarco terminated the lease in 1940,” according to a Forest Service news release.

posted 10/7/2011


Left: Google Earth view of the Azurite mine (tailings pile just visible). The mine was last active in 1939 although claims stayed valid into the 1990s.

Below: The cleanup work done this summer (click to enlarge)