Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Return from Rico

Hey.  If you think I haven't been blogging because I've been sewing, or hanging out in our new patio nook resting, or playing with my children, because, you know, I HAVE THE SUMMER OFF, then screw you.

I mean, you'd be wrong.

Because I've been working!  But guess where I've been getting to work?  In the mountains!!!  The beautiful, green, gorgeous Colorado mountains.  The San Juans, to be precise.  Yep, last week I got to work in Aspen (seriously) and this week, I headed to Rico, Colorado, population 250, which is near Telluride. 

I am one lucky mofo. 

But it was still work.  In Rico I was interviewing people and reading master plans and writing a paper on geothermal energy development and mining history in Colorado, which sadly leaves horrible legacies like this:

and this:

and this:

all over the place.  "Colorful Colorado," indeed.

I also carried some very heavy cable and hiked about a thousand miles in my old hiking boots with a young troop of geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, and other nerds.  Nerds, by the way, is the highest compliment I can bestow on anyone.  I love Nerds.  Truly.  I consider myself one, on good days.  But you should see the blister on my heel (which Nolie pronounces "blisturd," and that's about exactly how it feels), which I got trying to keep up with those gorgeous young whippersnappers.  It's a damned shame.  I thought about posting a picture of it but even I can't get that grotesque on the blog.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing, and why you haven't heard so much from me.  I'll try to post more in the next day or two, but then we're taking a little family vacation up into the Rockies, and then a week after I head to London to present on the above mine-mess.  Cheerio, toodle-oo, and check back in again over the next few days for more.


  1. Is that Geothermal activity (hot springs)? Is that color iron deposits from the geothermal waters?

    Mining is always in interesting subject and leads to lots of interesting stories and history in Colorado. What kind of heavy metals did they mine there and what is leaching into their ground waters? Messy.

  2. It looks like geothermal activity, right? But actually it's carbon dioxide, releasing through pipes or natural holes in the ground created by mining in the past. That CO2 would stay underground if it weren't for all the mining tunnels, but instead it spews out from those pipes. In the one picture that looks like a geyser, is oxidation.

    The other deep orange/red one, though, is one of a series of settling ponds. The town had a small, devastating sulphuric acid plant (used in uranium mining), and really nasty water with lots of heavy stuff just pours out of a mine next to that plant constantly. The hillside is deforested from releases of the acid, and the minewater drainage goes into seven settling ponds. Eventually a water treatment facility will have to be put in--the EPA is only giving the town and Arco a limited time to clean it up.

    All around is the most beautiful scenery, but it's scarred all over the place with tailings, abandoned equipment, and so on. It's such an interesting place.

  3. Wow. What a mess. It amazes me how the mining industry has been around way longer than the oil and gas industry (obviously, oil was found through mining) and over the years, they have not been as responsible in reclaiming lands. No one puts money towards it, not even the current mining companies. Whereas in oil and gas, from my perspective, has been regulated in each state for years that lands need to be reclaimed. There are orphaned well funds even that can be used when you find old well bores that need to be plugged and site cleanup. With commissions and such set up in each oil and gas state, they will even look for money when it's needed for those kinds of things. Here's something you might find interesting.,_Pennsylvania Funny thing is there is still active mining in the area.

  4. Yeah, mining has been particularly bad. There are some exceptions--I think big companies like Newmont have had to clean up their image some in the US, but worldwide are still pretty bad. Then there are cases like the Centralia one you sent me, which is pretty horrifying. And coal mining (mountaintop removal) is especially horrible, though not unusual, I think.

    I need to know more about oil and gas regulations. I can see how land drilling for oil has needed to clean up its act quite a bit, for sure. But certainly deep-sea drilling and transport has a nasty history. Will we ever really be able to clean up Prince William Sound? They're still finding oil there. And I don't even know about the gulf.

    As for natural gas, it seems like that is particularly nasty business at the moment. Isn't "fracking" and the state of our water supplies of real concern right now?

    I don't know. It seems to really be important to pay attention to context. YOur comment reminds me not to generalize because each situation will be unique. But I'm not sure, when we look back, that we'll see oil and gas as much less culpable than mining. I may need you to educate me more on this :).