Surface mining operations
Various placer gold mining operations have been conducted in the Valdez Creek drainage beginning in the early 1900’s. One of those operations was the Valdez Creek Mine operated by Cambior USA in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Valdez Creek Mine was not your ordinary placer mining operation. A portion of a gold bearing deposit identified by Cambior lay approximately 180 feet below a 2 mile stretch of the main channel of Valdez Creek.
To mine this gold bearing deposit, Cambior conducted surface pit mining operations with contemporaneous reclamation of the mined area. This portion of the operation encompassed an area approximately 2 miles long under Valdez Creek, up to 1200 feet wide and 180-300 feet deep. The creek was diverted around the mined area in a channel designed to allow passage of grayling that migrate to and from spawning areas above the mined area.
Reclamation included immediate backfilling of mined area as mining progressed, contouring surface to as close as possible to original grade and elevation; construction of stream channel to like location, grade and design as the original stream channel; and re-vegetation of the affected areas.
With regulatory approval, the final pit area was converted to a lake. The lake now provides wetlands and deeper pool habitat that did not exist before operation of the mine. (BLM: Case file CF AA078902)