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Analytical results for 35 mine-waste tailings cores and six bed-sediment samples, and an estimate of the volume of contaminated material at Buckeye meadow on upper Basin Creek, northern Jefferson County, Montana

Open-File Report 99-537

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Abstract

Metal-mining related wastes in the Boulder River basin study area in northern Jefferson County, Montana have been implicated in their detrimental effects on water quality with regard to acidgeneration and toxic-metal solubilization. Flotation-mill tailings in the meadow below the Buckeye mine, hereafter referred to as the Buckeye mill-tailings site, have been identified as significant contributors to water quality degradation of Basin Creek, Montana. Basin Creek is one of three tributaries to the Boulder River in the study area; bed sediments and waters draining from the Buckeye mine have also been implicated. Geochemical analysis of 35 tailings cores and six bed-sediment samples was undertaken to determine the concentrations of Ag, As, Cd, Cu, Pb,and Zn present in these materials. These elements are environmentally significant, in that they can be toxic to fish and/or the invertebrate organisms that constitute their food. A suite of one-inch cores of dispersed flotation-mill tailings and underlying premining material was taken from a large, flat area north of Basin Creek near the site of the Buckeye mine. Thirty-five core samples were taken and divided into 204 subsamples. The samples were analyzed by ICP-AES (inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy) using a mixed-acid digestion. Results of the core analyses show that the elements listed above are present at moderate to very high concentrations (arsenic to 63,000 ppm, silver to 290 ppm, cadmium to 370 ppm, copper to 4,800 ppm, lead to 93,000 ppm, and zinc to 23,000 ppm). Volume calculations indicate that an estimated 8,400 metric tons of contaminated material are present at the site. Six bed-sediment samples were also subjected to the mixed-acid total digestion, and a warm (50oC) 2M HCl-1% H2O2 leach and analyzed by ICP-AES. Results indicate that bed sediments of Basin Creek are only slightly impacted by past mining above the Buckeye-Enterprise complex, moderately impacted at the upper (eastern) end of the tailings area, and heavily impacted at the lower (western) end of the area and downstream. The metals are mostly contained in the 2M HCl-1% H2O2 leachable phase, which are the hydrous amorphous iron- and manganese-hydroxide coatings on detrital sediment particles.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Analytical results for 35 mine-waste tailings cores and six bed-sediment samples, and an estimate of the volume of contaminated material at Buckeye meadow on upper Basin Creek, northern Jefferson County, Montana
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
99-537
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1999
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
Description:
i, 57 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.