Boston Hill Mine Safeguard Project
About the Project
In 1977, Title IV of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) established the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. The Abandoned Mine Land Program’s (AML) primary mandate is to safeguard the public from the physical hazards and environmental degradation associated with mines abandoned prior to the Act. At historic non-coal sites, such as those found on Boston Hill, AML currently is limited to addressing high-priority physical hazards.
In 1999, after a concerted effort by a core group of residents and a generous donation from an area resident, the Town of Silver City (Town) purchased a portion of Boston Hill, marking its first open space acquisition. Since then the Town has developed 10 miles of hiking and biking trails in the area, safeguarded several openings, and used the site to promote public education on the history of mining in the Silver City area.
Boston Hill Mine Safeguarding Work
In early 2009, AML approached the Town to begin to explore the possibilities of completing abandoned mine safeguarding work on the Boston Hill open space area. A key concern expressed by the Town councilors and staff was the preservation of mining history in the area, a concern shared by AML. The Boston Hill Open Space is a community asset that not only continues to offer opportunities to preserve the Town’s mining heritage, but also to attract tourists to the area and to improve the quality of life in the community.
Safeguarding of the Boston Hill abandoned mine workings also may present added opportunities to transform community liabilities into community assets, while maintaining the role of these mines in the history of the Town, preserving essential mining features, and managing risk. As an example, AML perceives a particularly significant opportunity to create a community asset at the Legal Tender Mine that preserves its history. Possible improvements include installation of landscaping such as low boundary rock walls, plantings of native trees and shrubs, sitting benches, additional trails that connect the mine site to the existing trail system, and interpretive signs.
Other options include installation of viewing platforms or small pedestrian bridges over selected stope openings to give glimpses into the underground mine workings. It might be possible for the main bat gate to be opened for human access into safe portions of the underground workings in the spring and fall when bats are not present, or for special tours. An outdoor meeting space might be created near the main bat gate for gatherings, presentations, performances, tours, summer evening viewings of bat flights, and bat and historical mining festivals. Particularly if funding sources can be found, some of the architectural and ornamental elements might be able to be designed or built by local artists and artisans.
These are some initial conceptual ideas from AML to give an idea of the scope of possibilities at the mine sites and are not meant to be prescriptive or to indicate advance knowledge of their acceptability to stakeholders. Rather, AML’s goal is a collaborative approach with the community, involving it and other stakeholders by soliciting ideas and input, building consensus, and including user participation in the design and building processes. The goal is to create a harmonious, humane, widely supported solution to the issue of safeguarding local abandoned mine hazards.
Stakeholders in the planning process include:
- Albuquerque Area Office of the Office of Surface Mining
- Bureau of Land Management
- Cultural preservation groups
- Grant County
- Local biking and hiking clubs
- Local Native Plant Society
- Merchant associations
- Mineral owners or lessees
- State Historic Preservation Division
- Town of Silver City
- Town residents and landowners
- Western New Mexico University