The process of pyrite oxidation at the surface of mine waste may produce acidic water that is gradually neutralized as it drains away from the waste, depositing different Fe-bearing secondary minerals in roughly concentric zones that emanate from mine-waste piles. These Fe-bearing minerals are indicators of the geochemical conditions under which they form. Airborne and orbital imaging spectrometers can be used to map these mineral zones because each of these Fe-bearing secondary minerals is spectrally unique. In this way, imaging spectroscopy can be used to rapidly screen entire mining districts for potential sources of surface acid drainage and to detect acid producing minerals in mine waste or unmined rock outcrops. Spectral data from the AVIRIS instrument were used to evaluate mine waste at the California Gulch Superfund Site near Leadville, CO. Laboratory leach tests of surface samples show that leachate pH is most acidic and metals most mobile in samples from the inner jarosite zone and that leachate pH is near-neutral and metals least mobile in samples from the outer goethite zone.
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Using imaging spectroscopy to map acidic mine waste