Heap reclamation wins award
Anyone who is energized by the sagebrush desert of northeastern Nevada enjoys the drive to Goldstrike. Put Elko behind you; zip past the ranches; make a quick stop for coffee in Carlin; enjoy the snow-capped mountains on every horizon. The air is clear and the sky is alive with promise. Following the Barrick signs, you arrive at the administration building tucked into low rolling hills. Or were those hills?
No, the last bit of the landscape is made up of spent heap leach pads. These were the beginnings of Goldstrike when it was born in the mid-1980s as a small, low-capital-cost hopeful. The old heap areas outlived their usefulness as the project grew and matured into the complex mining and metallurgical operation it is today.
It is obvious that the old leach pads have been recontoured to match the natural profile–and quite successfully. They are criss-crossed with drainage ditches in a leaf-like pattern as part of the capillary break/evapotranspiration cover on the pad. The ditches are lined with a mix of sand and riprap to control erosion. Every so often a small boulder perches on the surface, embracing complete naturalization. The lack of vegetation marks the structures as man-made, but that will soon change as the seeded mulch takes root and native vegetation returns.
Goldstrike’s reclamation of old leach pads is a first in Nevada, indeed the first of its kind approved in the United States. It well deserves the Governor’s Excellence in Mine Reclamation Award received in September 2000. Bill Dixon, manager of technical services, and Ron Espell, superintendent of environment, accepted the honour on behalf of their departments and the many other departments involved in the winning project.
Kevin Kinsella inspecting the second year growth on a reclaimed site at Goldstrike. In the background is the waste rock dump, which has not yet been reclaimed.