The kids called the heaps of waste rock from a shuttered mine “the moon,” and the bare mounds of yellow mill tailings “Egypt.”
“We played there. We loved it,” recalled San Miguel County Commissioner Janice Varela. “We didn’t know.”
Growing up on the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico, she said, they lived with a world of mountains, rivers, and canyons at their disposal. That world just happened to include the geologic oddities of an old lead and zinc mine, mill buildings and tailings piles. People would load up the back of a pickup truck and haul the waste rock away for use around their homes, including Varela’s ex-husband, who applied it to their driveway.