Conference focuses on crisis planning and prevention


CREEDE — Few disasters are completely unexpected or sudden but rather predictable potentialities with long-term causes. For those involved in mining and reclamation, disruptive events such as environmental catastrophes, price fluctuations, shifting regulatory priorities and human error can impede operations and hinder progress for many years, shifting resources to recovery efforts and away from fundamental objectives.

The eighth annual San Juan Mining and Reclamation Conference, May 2 to 4 in Creede, will bring together diverse community members to learn how companies, government agencies and others can use scenario planning, adaptive management, risk assessment and other tools to prevent disasters. Under the 2018 theme of “Planning for Resiliency,” a line-up of 12 presenters and a panel will share their experiences and approaches to crisis management, fiduciary responsibility and organizational partnerships that weigh the impacts to society, the economy and the environment. The conference is a unique opportunity to better understand and discuss best practices and solutions in mining and reclamation from the perspective of how focusing on this triple bottom line effects project development and long-range planning.

Tahne Corcutt, senior associate at Northbridge Environmental Management and conference committee volunteer says of this year’s theme: “resiliency planning utilizes a triple bottom line approach to ensure the integrity of mining infrastructure and operations, the economic viability of host communities, and the environmental health of the watersheds in which they are located when faced with the unexpected: spills and tailings dam failures, drought, hazardous weather and climate events, and impacts to revenue and production.”

The conference will open on Wednesday, May 2 with a free community reception at the Creede Community Center, with an optional tour of the Creede Underground Mining Museum and talks about economic resiliency by Creede locals. The reception and the following conference day will be emceed by Anthony Poponi, a professional event host from the Western Slope known for his enthusiastic and humorous approach.

The main conference presentations will be on Thursday, May 3, and cover various approaches to protecting, monitoring and treating water quality in mining and reclamation projects through sustainable, collaborative and innovative practices. Speakers come from a wide range of organizations including Solid Solution Geosciences, Sustainable Development Strategies Group, American Mining Foundation, Colorado School of Mines, Environmental Protection Agency, and Colorado Watershed Assembly.

On Friday, May 4, two guided field trips will allow tour participants to see and hear about real projects. One will be to the historic Summitville Mine site south of Del Norte, and include history on environmental impacts and tours of historic buildings. The other will be at the Kerber Creek mine site near Bonanza in the northern end of the San Luis Valley and include a history of restoration work and overview of partnerships, funding, challenges, and technical approaches needed to complete a successful mine clean-up project.

“I appreciate that San Juan Mining and Reclamation Conference brings professionals from across the spectrum to discuss local issues related to mine reclamation, environmental health, and long term planning,” says Ashley Bembenek, a soil and water scientist with the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership. “I am looking forward to learning more about how mining professionals integrate resiliency into their operations.”

Randy McClure, a third generation Creede native and consultant for Hecla Mining will also be attending the conference.  “I look forward to the [conference] as it brings government, non-government, industry and the public together in an idea sharing and educational venue. The highlight of this years conference being in Creede is that attendees will be able to see first hand the exceptional work that has been done on the Willow Creek floodplain!”

For full conference schedule, registration and details, go to mountainstudies.org/sjmrc.

The conference is organized by Willow Creek Reclamation Committee, Headwaters Alliance, Mountain Studies Institute, Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, San Miguel Watershed Coalition, and Animas River Stakeholders Group. The conference is partially funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and sponsored by Idarado-Newmont as well as Hecla Mining Company, Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, and Ouray Silver Mines.

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