OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT
OSM's awards recognize a wide range of
accomplishments in reclaiming past mining sites.
The National Award
New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division, Mine Reclamation Bureau, Real De Dolores Mine Safeguard Project
Ten years after the Santa Fe Trail began, the placer mining in the Ortiz Mountains ended when in 1831 shafts were opened beginning the Santo Nino, the oldest mine in what would become New Mexico. The Santa Rosalia mine followed in 1833, a full fifteen years before the California gold rush, expanding the mining camp of Real de Delores and leading to the construction of New Mexico's first rail line built to carry ore. Later combined as the Old Ortiz mine, production continued here into the 1940s and an open pit mine operated in the 1980s.
Today, the Santa Fe Trail is part of the National Historic Trail system overseen by the Park Service and Real de Delores, along with the surrounding mines, are part of the Ortiz Mountain Educational Preserve a scenic recreation area near the town of Cerrilos. The state Historic Preservation Division has designated the site as historically significant and eligible for inclusion in the National and State historic registers.
Creating a reclaimed mine site suitable for recreation and honoring the role of mining in the southwest's early settlement and later economic development required extensive planning and innovation by the State Mine Reclamation Bureau (MRB).
One hundred seventy five years of successive mining had left 14 dangerous mine openings including eight shafts, two adits, two pits, and two stopes all of which were significant dangers to the public. Remnants of the old rail line, a failed dry mill, and the mining camp were located by state archaeologists. There was a good deal of work ahead before the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens could begin educational tours.
With variations suitable to each opening, polyurethane foam plugs with steel risers, lightweight scoria fill, filter cloth and topsoil were used to close openings and protect the visiting public. Where bat species had moved into the mine shafts special gates were designed to conform with aesthetic as well as safety considerations. This solution has worked so well that New Mexico has gone on to design similar bat friendly closures at sites across the state.
Delores de Real is now a place where the public can safely visit to learn about the long and varied role of mining in New Mexico's history, species preservation in reclamation projects and the work of the state Abandoned Mine Land Program and the Office of Surface Mining.
Maintaining the historic aspects of the site, New Mexico MRB fenced and secured openings to the earliest mine and preserved the headframe and collar to another. Final preparations included grading to conform to the natural environment, establishing access routes at the site and then seeding with native forbs and grasses as well as planting more than 500 native shrub and tree seedlings. These accomplishments, together with the projects partnering with mining companies, historic preservation groups and others were a major factor in winning the National Award for Excellence in Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation.