Solution provider servicing Holden mine clean-up

26th August 2016

Modular building solutions provider Vesta Housing Solutions was this year awarded a contract for British-Australian multinational mining corporation Rio Tinto’s Holden Mine Cleanup project.

Vesta, which announced the contract in April,

explained at the time that the facility provided by Vesta, in partnership with food and support services provider ESS Support Services Worldwide, a division of catering and support service company Compass Group, and commercial modular buildings provider Aries Building Systems, will be used to house and feed workers in the remote and logistically challenging Holden Village – a former heavy-metal mine on Lake Chelan, in Washington state, in the US.

“For the last five years, we’ve had between 200 and 300 employees and contractors living in and working out of Holden Village. Over the life of the project, we’ve employed more than 1 800 people from the region,” says Rio Tinto.

The $500-million Holden Mine Cleanup project, led by Rio Tinto, is necessary to prevent future water and soil contamination. It is a $200-million investment to remediate and address the issues related to the mine, which stopped operations in the late 1950s.

The clean-up project started its final year of major construction this year. In April, Rio Tinto showed community members what it had done and what it planned for 2016 and beyond.

Rio Tinto explains that the clean-up work is dependent on weather conditions and that the project is snowbound during the winter months. Work takes place from May to October each year and is, therefore, divided into two phases. The first phase was completed in 2015 and is to be followed by several years water monitoring.

“The clean-up project has gone on a little longer than we anticipated and cost us a lot more than we expected; but we are close to reaching our goal of restoring the natural ecosystem and preventing any more contamination from the historic mine site,” the company explained.

Vesta COO Billy Hall notes that the company is “extremely excited to work with Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining groups, and our partners ESS Support Services Worldwide and Aries in providing a high-quality and safe facility for those working on the project”.

The Holden mine housing project is unique in that it involves a combination of several companies to provide the right solution in an incredibly tight time frame.

“The temporary housing market is constantly evolving and, with the current economic environment, we are seeing more opportunities to partner with other providers to give customers the best solution to their needs,” says Vesta CEO Dan McMurtrie.

Vesta is currently working on several other similar partnering opportunities across the US.

“We are very pleased to be able to work in partnership with Vesta Housing Solutions to provide a high-quality food service and a healthy lifestyle environment for Holden Village,” says ESS Support Services Canada president Michael Hachey.

He adds that, by providing all the amenities needed, ESS is confident in its ability to create a sense of community for miners who are often a long way from home and rotating in and out of their work environment.

In 2015, the American Exploration and Mining Association awarded its Environmental Excellence Award to Rio Tinto for its clean-up of the Holden mine site, as well as its commitment to the environment and local communities.

The project is located next to Holden Village, a spiritual retreat centre that has operated on the site for more than 50 years. Rio Tinto has never owned or operated the Holden mine but, through a series of acquisitions, agreed to pay for and manage the clean-up.

Rio Tinto’s goal is to complete the remediation of past environmental problems at the old Holden mine site safely, cost-effectively and in a way that creates a sustainable socioeconomic future for Holden Village and other nearby communities,” says Holden Mine Cleanup project manager Dave Cline.

He adds that, with the construction of a water treatment plant at the site and ongoing environmental monitoring, Rio Tinto is committed to the project for the long term.

Rio Tinto (and predecessor companies) had been working with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Forest Service and other federal and state agencies for several years to develop a plan to clean up historic mine waste and dismantle old mining facilities. Federal agencies issued their record of decision on the clean-up strategy in January 2012, giving the green light for remediation work to begin.