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Balancing Mining Growth with Strict Environmental Regulations

Balancing Mining Growth with Strict Environmental Regulations

Background

The Flambeau Mining Company (Flambeau), a Rio Tinto subsidiary, was the first Wisconsin metallic mineral company to pursue and receive permits for the construction of an open pit sulfide ore copper mine. In 1987, Foth was asked to assist with permitting, development and final closure of the Flambeau copper mine under Wisconsin’s newly established mine permitting regulations. Our involvement continues to this day.

Approach

Foth served as lead environmental consultant throughout the active life of the mine, during closure and reclamation, and during the post closure monitoring period. The permitting process required extensive environmental studies to define baseline conditions and project potential environmental impacts. Foth was tasked with developing the closure plan for the project which included managing the backfilling of mine wastes in the open pit and closure of the pit in a manner that would protect the adjacent Flambeau River. Other activities included land reclamation, revegetation, and post closure storm water management. Foth designed and constructed an attenuating wetland system to manage storm water runoff and attenuate copper and zinc contained in the runoff. Foth has worked on this project for over 30 years. The project is regarded as an excellent example of mine development and cleanup.

Results

Extensive environmental studies, proper planning and follow-through made this mine an exemplary project, demonstrating that economic growth can coexist with stringent environmental regulations. The technical and consulting services provided by Foth allowed Rio Tinto to focus on mining-related issues.

Flambeau received a Certificate of-Completion for reclamation, which allowed Flambeau to reduce their reclamation bond by the maximum allowable by law.  Most recently, Flambeau was authorized to reduce their long-term monitoring and bonding requirements based on an exhaustive review, completed by Foth, of post closure hydrologic and geochemical data.

Our work has withstood numerous legal challenges in State Court and Federal Court including:

  • 1990 Master Hearing on EIS and all Permit Applications.
  • 1995 Contested Case Hearing on Amended Reclamation Plan.
  • 2007 Contested Case Hearing on Certificate of Completion.
  • 2012 Clean Water Act Lawsuit in Federal Court Related to Stream C.

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