The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 20, 2014

Contaminated mine tailings could be used on west bypass

JOPLIN, Mo. — About 500 acres of former mining land at Wildwood Ranch have been reclaimed by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

More than 1 million cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings in the form of chat and waste rock have been consolidated in a surface repository that someday could be part of the roadbed for a limited-access highway that transportation planners hope to build on the west side of Joplin.

The consolidation of the waste in the most likely corridor for the bypass and the contouring of the land around it, including the installation of more than 700 feet of concrete culvert, could shave an estimated $10 million from the cost of constructing that bypass, officials say.

The former lead and zinc mining field, which stretches in broad patches south of West 32nd street from Central City Road to Tanyard Hollow, is located on wooded and rocky terrain on the north side of Shoal Creek. Tributaries flowing into Shoal Creek from the mining fields — over a period of several decades — have deposited millions of cubic yards of chat into the creek.

“It’s easy to see what’s happening when you look at this map,” said Jon Kuhn, project supervisor for the contractors, ART Environmental Services and A&M Engineering Services, both of Tulsa, Okla.

“See these tributaries flowing into Shoal Creek? They appear white because of the chat in them. They have created deltas of chat down here where they flow into Shoal Creek.”

The EPA’s long-range plan calls for those deltas to be dredged from Shoal Creek.

“But the good news is this: No more chat is going into Shoal Creek,” said Mark Doolan, project manager for the EPA. “We have shut off the flow of contamination into Shoal Creek.”

The mine wastes are contaminated with heavy metals, including lead, zinc and cadmium. Zinc is toxic to aquatic life.

The land that has been reclaimed includes 145 acres at Wildwood Ranch, where the Mattes Mine and a dozen others once operated. The land is now safe for residential development.

Jimmer Pinjuv, developer of Wildwood Ranch, said: “The company doing this is one of the most productive companies I have ever seen. What they have done is nothing short of spectacular. I have watched this from the start, and to see how different it looks now is amazing.

“This was a worthless piece of property that now will be a benefit to the area.”

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