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Geochemical processes in ground water resulting from surface mining of coal at the Big Sky and West Decker Mine areas, southeastern Montana

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4097

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Abstract

A potential hydrologic effect of surface mining of coal in southeastern Montana is a change in the quality of ground water. Dissolved-solids concen- trations in water in spoils aquifers generally are larger than concentrations in water in the coal aquifers they replaced; however, laboratory experiments have indicated that concentrations can decrease if ground water flows from coal-mine spoils to coal. This study was conducted to determine if decreases in concentrations occur onsite and, if so, which geochemical processes caused the decreases. Solid-phase core samples of spoils, unmined over- burden, and coal, and ground-water samples were collected from 16 observation wells at two mine areas. In the Big Sky Mine area, changes in ground- water chemistry along a flow path from an upgradient coal aquifer to a spoils aquifer probably were a result of dedolomitization. Dissolved-solids concentrations were unchanged as water flowed from a spoils aquifer to a downgradient coal aquifer. In the West Decker Mine area, dissolved-solids concentrations apparently decreased from about 4,100 to 2,100 milligrams per liter as water moved along an inferred flow path from a spoils aquifer to a downgradient coal aquifer. Geochemical models were used to analyze changes in water chemistry on the basis of results of solid-phase and aqueous geochemical characteristics. Geochemical processes postulated to result in the apparent decrease in dissolved-solids concentrations along this inferred flow path include bacterial reduction of sulfate, reverse cation exchange within the coal, and precipitation of carbonate and iron-sulfide minerals.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Geochemical processes in ground water resulting from surface mining of coal at the Big Sky and West Decker Mine areas, southeastern Montana
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
95-4097
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1995
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
Description:
vi, 80 p. :ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ;28 cm.