Chevron Mining Inc., Questa Mine (Formerly Molycorp Mine)

Site History:

Chevron Mining Inc. site facilities (Site) includes the underground workings, open pit, waste rock, tailings impoundments, and the tailings pipeline. Releases of hazardous substances, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, and zinc, from the Site have occurred from various sources including seepage from contaminated mine waste surface deposits, spills of tailings slurry from the tailings pipeline, and seepage from the tailings ponds.

Location:

The Site is located approximately five miles east of the town of Questa, adjacent to the Red River and the mine tailing ponds are located approximately nine miles west of the mine.

Trustees:

State of New Mexico
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
United States Department of the Interior

Overview:

The Trustees and Chevron Mining Inc. reached a $4 million settlement to restore groundwater and habitat natural resources that were injured as a result of releases of hazardous substances from the Site. The consent decree outlining the settlement was approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on September 30, 2015. The settlement includes the transfer of 225 acres of land called the Anderson Ranch to the Bureau of Land Management for conservation and natural resource protection, and also includes the reimbursement of the Trustees’ assessment costs.

In May of 2018, Trustees for the Site natural resource damage settlement released the final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (“final RP/EA”) for the Chevron Mining Inc., Questa Mine (“Site”).  

Case Status:

Restoration Implementation

Restoration Activities:

In May of 2018, Trustees for the Site natural resource damage settlement released the final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (“final RP/EA”) for the Chevron Mining Inc., Questa Mine (“Site”).  
 
Five restoration projects have been selected for implementation and are currently in the agreement negotiation phase with project proponents and contractors. It is anticipated that the projects will start by the spring of 2019.  The projects are described below:
 

Red River Aquatic Habitat within the Village of Questa, Taos Co.

This project will be along several miles of the Red River in the Village of Questa and includes riparian habitat restoration efforts to restore the natural dimension, pattern, and profile of the river to promote highly functioning aquatic/riparian habitat areas. Restoration activities will include construction of submerged bars and several types of woody debris structures to promote healthy stream flow patterns. Adjacent riparian habitat areas would be improved with plantings to help reduce erosion, enhance biodiversity, and coincide with shallow wetland features in the river’s floodplain. Restoration activities will concentrate in poor and fair sections of the river.

 

Aquatic Habitat in the Red River within Forest Service Land, Taos Co.

The goal of this project is to restore aquatic habitat for the benefit of riparian natural resources (e.g., trout and other wildlife) and resource services by improving the impaired river morphology on a portion of the Red River to a more natural state. This would be accomplished using a variety of techniques, such as filling and revegetating a bank area, excavating the channel bed, removing vegetation, installing rock features, and constructing log jams.

 

Restoration of the Midnight Meadows, Taos Co.

This project would restore the hydrology (including water-holding capacity), the vegetative structure, and the ecological resilience to a portion of the Midnight Meadows wetland fen. Specifically, the project would repair and/or install four riparian wetland exclosures to limit the impacts of livestock grazing and vehicles, protecting nearly one stream mile of Bitter Creek in the Carson National Forest; would install erosion control structures, such as rock dams or other similar designs, in the Bitter Creek and Cabresto Creek headwaters; and would address priority restoration work on 9 hectares of wetland.

 

Municipal Sanitary Sewer Improvements in Village of Questa, Taos Co.

This project would include extending the municipal sewer service in the Village of Questa to protect groundwater and surface water resources. The project would extend sewer main collector lines and individual service lines to 80 households that currently operate on private septic systems, extend service to a new business park, and replace aging and defective pipes, including sewer lines to three homes. Replacing septic systems, which require regular maintenance and can often leak pollutants, will reduce the risk of sewer line failures and in turn the risk of contaminating natural resources.

 

Municipal Water Supply Well in Village of Questa, Taos Co.

This project would include construction of a new municipal water supply well in the Village of Questa. The construction of a deeper and better-engineered municipal well in a semi-isolated portion of the aquifer will help restore the natural flux of fresh groundwater to the shallow aquifer system from recharge areas. This will in turn protect groundwater and surface water resources and restore the groundwater quality.

Questa Mine Factsheet – Public Meeting 11/29/17

Restoration Projects Evaluated by the Trustees – Public Meeting 11/29/17

Administrative Record for Molycorp Mine Natural Resource Damage Assessment

 

Chevron Mining Inc., Questa mine and surroundings

Chevron Mining Inc., Questa mine and surroundings