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home : news : news Sunday, August 05, 2007

6/14/2006 4:00:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
Tailing soon a thing of the past

By BRANDON WILSON
Staff Reporter

VVN/Brandon Wilson: Part of the Phelps Dodge fleet uses nearby dirt to cap the tailing around Tuzigoot. The project is roughly 25 percent complete.
The disappearance of the mining tailing in Clarkdale might not be as well known as the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, but some Verde Valley residents have waited just as long, if not longer, to realize the cover-up.

Late last year, mining company Phelps Dodge, which owns the land around Tuzigoot, unveiled plans to cap the orange-scarred tailing after a 50-year plea from residents. The environmental impacts of the tailing goes back to 1935 when United Verde Copper Company ceased its mining operation and left a curvaceous pattern of material left after copper was removed from ore. The Verde Independent first called for action to be taken on the potentially toxic, arsenic-contaminated dust columns in an editorial from May 5, 1955.

Over time, environmental concerns remained. Then, in the 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a consent order to cap the tailing due to concerns of the toxic minerals seeping into the Verde River. The Town of Clarkdale addressed the environmental concern. Phelps Dodge later took the initiative to ensure the river would not be contaminated by making plans to begin capping.

Before this could be done, the Town of Clarkdale had to redirect its effluent lines that were dumping wastewater on the tailing. In February, the town awarded a bid of $1.97 million to Back Constructing LLC to extend the effluent piping to a 65-acre area in the industrial part of town, thus paving the way for the capping of the tailing.

Alas, heavy machinery in the area marks the end of a half-century pest. The racket of the machines might be an ear-sore, but to many, this short-term nuisance is far better than the 50-year eyesore the tailings have left.

Phelps Dodge Mining Communications Manager Ken Vaughn said the capping project is about 25-percent complete.

"We should be wrapping up in the next few months, depending on weather," Vaughn said. "From there, it might take a while, but the vegetation will start growing in and matching the surrounding area."

Project and Design Engineer Patrick Gorman said in December that the company would cap the tailings through a process called evapotranspiration. The process prevents rainwater from infiltrating the tailing and contaminating surrounding waters.

The soil will absorb rainfall and allow it to be evaporated or used by future vegetation. Phelps Dodge plans to mulch and seed the area with native vegetation.


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