The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety presented Four Corners Materials with the Jack Starner Memorial Reclamation Award for outstanding environmental efforts at the Hindmarsh sandstone quarry six miles east of Cortez.
The honor is one of the top awards regarding the conservation and preservation of wildlife habitats and vegetation of mining lands. The Hindmarsh pit is "an outstanding example of environmental stewardship" according to a news release from the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board.
Matt Carnahan, the resource and environmental manager for FCM, received the award on behalf of the company on November 13 in Denver. The Jack Starner award is given once a year and issued across the state. The site must be nominated and details of the efforts must be expressed to the reclamation board.
The Hindmarsh quarry had been released from the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety in 2009, meaning that FCM was no longer obligated to the site because vegetation was sustainable; however Carnahan and his collaborates were still allowed to nominate the site for the award.
"We were obviously very honored," Carnahan said of receiving the award. "This is a very prestigious honor and it is nice to be recognized as good environmental stewards."
FCM acquired the Hindmarsh pit from a previous construction company they had purchased. The quarry was primarily sandstone, had limited top soil and any existing soil was barren. In 2004, the site was re-contoured and re-seeded by FCM but Carnahan said the vegetation didn't come back and they ended up with more weeds than before.
"The key for us was to bring in specialists," Carnahan said. "It's one thing to go in and toss some seed down and that's it. Bringing in experts and tapping into all resources available to us was important, especially for difficult sects such as this."
In 2007, FCM went back into the quarry with an environmental professional from Bayfield. They double-seeded, did noxious weed control, reforged the native species of grass and left opportunities for wildlife habitats.
Carnahan said they wanted to take an aggressive approach during the second effort, which proved to be more successful. The site's grass and vegetation rapidly bounced back, stupefying FCM and its collaborates.
"The amount of vegetation it is sustaining on its own is incredible," Carnahan said. "We are all amazed at how well the site came back."
A large amount of wildlife has also returned to the Hindmarsh pit area.
Within a quarry, mining is typically drilled vertically with high walls remaining. A consultant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife suggested FCM leave a portion of the wall to provide good habitats for nesting birds. There were also large boulders that remained, which Carnahan said could have been put back into the topography and covered up.
The rock structures were also turned into habitats for reptiles and small animals looking to get out of the elements. Lizards, snakes and rabbits have made homes in the eight structural areas.
"That's really what distanced us from the other mines nominated," Carnahan said. "We consulted with these outside professionals so these habitat structures would survive. The site is very unique."
Previous mining operations left materials on site such as crushed sandstone and dirt. FCM did not do any more mining when they acquired the site because the first owner had mined to the edge of the boundary.
According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, all mining operations are required to reclaim any property they mine and restore the site to a positive environmental atmosphere. Since the company was bought by FCM that became their responsibility.
FCM has reclaimed at least seven different sites in the last 10 years. In 2009, they were a runner-up for the same award for Key Pit, near Mancos, another reclaimed site that is a pasture used for irrigation today.