Hope Mine Biochar Project

 "If you could continually turn a lot of organic material into biochar, you could, over time, reverse the history of the last two hundred years...We can, literally, start sucking some of the carbon that our predecessors have poured into the atmosphere down through our weeds and stalks and stick it back in the ground. We can run the movie backward. We can un-mine some of the coal, undrill some of the oil. We can take at least pieces of the Earth and - this is something we haven't done for quite a while - leave them better than we found them."
-Bill McKibben, professor, author, climate activist and founder of 350.org

ACES Hope Mine Biochar project was the first and largest whole-mine relamation project using biochar that has ever been done in the U.S. This was an experimental project to test the effects of biochar in mine reclamation and to restore a devastated landscape. The Hope Mine is located approximately 6 miles from the town of Aspen. It was an active silver mine in the early 19th century that changed hands through a number of owners until the USFS took ownership of it in 2003. The mine waste formed large piles of toxic grey rock, containing no vegetation, that ran directly into Castle Creek, Aspen's water supply. While the Aspen Water Department found no evidence of heavy metals leeching into Castle Creek, there was  a concern for potential catastrophic erosion. If a heavy rain event were to cause the mine waste piles to slide into Castle Creek, it could shut off Aspen's water supply for upwards of two years. A traditional mine clean up of this site would have cost upwards of one million dollars, so a partnership was formed between the USFS and ACES to experiment with biochar in an effort to restore this landscape and stabilize the toxic mine waste from eroding into Castle Creek. The project proved to be incredibly successful. xx test plots were created to study different levels of biochar,compost, and  mycorrhizal fungi mix. The preliminary year-one results showed:

• Biochar performed better for re-vegetation than compost alone by a 313% increase in the first growing season ending.
• The plots with biochar held much greater soil moisture than the plots without.
• An excellent root zone was being developed in areas with both compost and biochar treatments - slope stability and erosion control were achieved in just one year with biochar.
• The optimized application rate for biochar was around a 10% - 20% blend.

What was a desolate pile of mine waste for 60 years has now been turned into a green hillside in just one year. ACES in partnership with Biochar Solutions, LLC is continuing the monitoring of the test plots.