Places > Flambeau Mine Copper Mine Reclamation

Flambeau Mine Copper Mine Reclamation


Project Type
Non-Bank Project
Wisconsin | Ladysmith
Ecological Setting
Soil Health


Mark O’Leary

D: 608.354.2617

RES embarked on a comprehensive surface reclamation project for a 180-acre site previously utilized for mining copper, gold, and silver. The Flambeau Mine, subject to significant public scrutiny, necessitated meticulous planning and design for its transformation.

Before surface reclamation, the mine underwent a closure process involving backfilling with a mixture of waste rock and limestone to neutralize acidity. A naturally occurring clay layer was then applied over the neutralized waste rock, followed by the redistribution of salvaged topsoil to approximate the original contours.

Our team developed meticulous surface grading and planting plans aimed at restoring native plant communities and effectively managing surface drainage. Situated along the Flambeau River, the site initially encompassed old fields and woodland patches, which were enhanced in diversity through the reclamation process.

We implemented a phased approach to planting, introducing ten native communities ranging from wetlands to upland prairie and savanna. Various live plant installation and seeding strategies were employed to accommodate the complex planting plan and high species diversity, including hydro-seeding, drilling, cyclone seeding, hand seeding, transplanting, hand plugging, and live staking.

Approximately 150 acres were successfully restored to natural conditions, with an additional 30 acres reserved for the development of a light industrial park, utilizing existing infrastructure from the mine.

To manage stormwater runoff effectively, we designed a natural biofilter complex that cleansed runoff onsite and restored wetland habitat, augmenting the biodiversity of the reclaimed area. This bioengineered system, strategically positioned at the convergence points of surface drainages, ensured that rain and snowmelt runoff underwent filtration before discharge into the Flambeau River. Additionally, proactive planning facilitated the isolation of runoff from the proposed industrial park to facilitate future stormwater discharge permits.

Since its restoration, the Flambeau Mine site has become a cherished public asset. Nearby schools utilize the site as an outdoor classroom, while residents of neighboring communities enjoy recreational trail systems. Through the implementation of ecological landscape design principles, we successfully transformed the closed mine site into a coveted community resource.

Before restoration After restoration