The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program received the 2020 National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) Hardrock Physical Safety Reclamation Award for the 2019 Red and Fry Canyon abandoned mine closure project in San Juan County.
Funded by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), 62 hazardous mine openings in the Red and Fry Canyon uranium districts on BLM land were closed using backfills, masonry walls, polyurethane foam plugs, and fabricated steel gates and grates. In addition, 12 electrical transformers dating to the 1950 – 60s were removed and disposed of from two mines.
Twelve of the sites are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places because they provide important information about uranium mining associated with the Cold War uranium boom. Closure methods and activities were carefully managed so as not to adversely affect these historic properties and to retain the historic landscape.
This project is the first construction phase of a 400 square mile project initiative that addresses abandoned uranium mines in the Red Canyon, White Canyon, Fry Canyon, and Deer Flat mining districts.
Historically, the bulk of the mining activity and production in the project area occurred when the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was purchasing uranium ore for defense-related activities between 1947 and 1970. After the federal support ended, most mines were abandoned. However, several uranium mines in Red Canyon were active as of 1980 and one permitted mine remains today.
The Red and Fry Canyon Project is a showcase example of interagency cooperation and collaboration to protect public safety while protecting the environment.