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Geochemical investigations and interim recommendations for priority abandoned mine sites on U.S.D.A. Forest Service lands, Mineral Creek watershed, San Juan County, Colorado

Open-File Report 99-170

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Abstract

Field observations, sampling of mine dumps and mine drainage waters, and laboratory studies of dump materials have been made at mining areas deemed to be on public lands administered by the USDA Forest Service in the Mineral Creek watershed. Results of chemical analyses of dump materials, leachates of those materials, and of surface waters draining mines or dumps provide indications of where acid is generated or consumed, and what metals are mobilized below mines or dumps. Information on 25 sites is reviewed and reclamation priorities are ranked into four classes (high, medium, low priority, or no work required). The western side of the upper Animas watershed (the Mineral Creek watershed) has a history of mining and prospecting for about 130 years. The intensity of miningrelated disturbance is higher than in most parts of the San Juan Mountains region, but actually is much less than the eastern half of the watershed (US BLM lands) and none of the mines moved millions of tons of rock and ore as in some of the eastern mines. The majority of the roughly one thousand mining sites on the USFS lands are very small (less than 100 tons or 70 cubic yards of dump material), are more than 2 miles from a major stream, or are so inaccessible as to prohibit reclamation. Twenty five sites have been considered by others to have significant size and potential for significant environmental degradation. These most significant mining areas were evaluated by multiple criteria, including tendency to generate acid or liberate toxic metals, observed acidic pH or dead vegetation (?kill zones?) below dumps or adits, potential mobility of metals, and likelihood of transport into streams of the watershed. In the author?s opinion, no single measurable parameter, such as metal concentration, is reliable for ranking significance or feasibility of reclamation. Rather, subjective estimates are required to evaluate combinations of, or interactions among, several parameters. The most subjective estimate in ranking feasibility of reclamation is the amount of natural and mine-related contamination at each mining area. Mitigation of natural contributions at mines or unmined areas is beyond the scope of these Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) investigations, but must be considered when planning reclamation. Available information for the 25 problem sites is adequate for ranking, but at some sites additional information on groundwater conditions is needed for a more reliable ranking and evaluation of reclamation methods.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Geochemical investigations and interim recommendations for priority abandoned mine sites on U.S.D.A. Forest Service lands, Mineral Creek watershed, San Juan County, Colorado
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
99-170
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1999
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
Description:
40 p., [1] leaf of plate :ill. (some col.), maps ;28 cm.