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Geochemical investigations and interim recommendations for priority abandoned mine sites, BLM lands, upper Animas River watershed, San Juan County, Colorado

Open-File Report 99-323

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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 U. S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Upper Animas River watershed. Results of chemical analyses of dump materials, leachates of those materials, and surface waters draining mines or dumps provide indications of where acid is generated or consumed, and metal concentrations below mines or dumps. Information on sites previously identified as needing reclamation is reviewed and available geochemical information is used to rank 26 sites into four classes of priority for reclamation. Although there are more than a thousand mining sites (productive mines and prospects) on BLM lands in the Upper Animas River watershed study area, the majority are very small (less than about 70 cubic yards of dump material), are more than 2 miles from a major stream, or so inaccessible as to prohibit reclamation. In the summers of 1997 and 1998 approximately 200 sites were observed and more than 100 of these that appeared to have the potential to geochemically impact the watershed were examined more carefully and sampled. Building upon the prior work of the BLM and associated agencies, this work attempted to identify the most significant sources of mine-related contamination and to rank those sites as to priority for reclamation. These most significant mining areas have been examined within a geologic framework and were evaluated by multiple criteria, including tendency to generate acid and release toxic metals, observed damage to vegetation, potential to release metals based on leach tests, and likelihood of transport into streams of the watershed. No single measurable parameter, such as metal concentration, can be used to rank the sites. Rather, subjective estimates are required to evaluate combinations or interactions among several parameters. The most subjective estimate, while ranking feasibility of reclamation, is the relative amounts of naturally occurring metals and acidity and mine-related contamination at each mining area. Mitigation of natural contributions at mines or unmined areas is beyond the scope of my studies, but should be considered when planning reclamation. Available information for the 26 priority sites is adequate for ranking, but at some sites additional information on groundwater conditions is needed for a more complete site evaluation.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Geochemical investigations and interim recommendations for priority abandoned mine sites, BLM lands, upper Animas River watershed, San Juan County, Colorado
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
99-323
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1999
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
Description:
43 p., 2 p. of plates :ill. (some col.), maps ;28 cm.