Wendy Schlett is a senior project manager with GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., where she has worked for the last three years. She is a graduate from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in hydrogeology. Schlett is a member of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s Sustainability Task Force and Michigan Aggregates Association’s Environmental Committee. She also participates in the Industrial Minerals Association of North America. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOICES OF EXPERIENCE
Rather than waiting for a site to be mined out and then initiate reclamation, BoDean Co., Inc. reclaims its sites in a linear fashion. “Maybe the topography and our mining area allow us to do this,” says Bill Williams, general manager. “We excavate an area and mine the resource, and then move into a new territory. We remove the overburden and topsoil in the area to be mined and put it in the previously mined area. Then we compact it, seed it, and begin the process of reclamation.”
BoDean has gained national attention for its solar-powered plant (see “Sustainability Picks Up Steam,” Aggregates Manager, October 2011, p. 26), but Williams says that concurrent reclamation and mining was one of its earliest forays into sustainable operations and continues to be one of the programs of which it is most proud.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, its reclamation program is also pragmatic. “The market that we are in does not have a huge demand for fill projects,” Williams says. “That means we have to manage the overburden. It makes sense, to us, in managing it to put it directly into reclamation and to reclaim our slopes.”
One of the most unique features of BoDean’s reclamation effort is its commitment to moving redwood trees in the path of its mine development to portions of the site where mining is complete. “We’re not required to do it. It doesn’t make economic sense to do it, nor would it work with every type of tree in every environment,” Williams points out. “But for the redwoods, it works rather well.”
Several years ago, when the company moved into a new area of its Mark West Quarry, they began moving the trees, and concurrent mining made transplantation feasible. “Obviously, it’s a considerable expense, but it just makes us feel good about what we do,” Williams says.
As the company works through the site — 87 acres at the Mark West Quarry, with a pending permit application for another 65 acres — it may go several years without working on reclamation. Rather, it takes place in fits and starts, as a section is mined out.
“It doesn’t necessarily happen year by year or month by month, but when you’re in the process of reclamation, you’re in that process for one or two years,” Williams says. “You’re moving material. You’re compacting it. You’re planting. Then you go for a few years when you’re not.”
While the company has considered various end uses for its sites, BoDean’s current reclamation plans involve open space and vegetation, but Williams says it continues to look at various opportunities: “Twenty to 30 years from now, the ideas might change.”
More and more operators are planning their reclamation options long before mining is completed, and they are starting with a natural footprint in mind, says Wendy Schlett, senior project manager, based in the Grand Rapids, Mich., office of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
“They’re doing long-term planning, with planning taking place at the outset, but keeping a view toward changing regulations, as well as financial conditions, that will offer the best long-term value for the land,” Schlett explains. By evaluating how to mine the property from the outset, they’re able to address site challenges and plan efficiently.
“In some instances, aggregate mines have to deal with wetlands that may have developed in areas that may not have been used in a year or two,” she says. “They’re constantly trying to turn the material to ensure that wetlands aren’t generated.
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