Baseline, premining data for streams draining abandoned mine lands is virtually non existent, and indirect methods for estimating premining conditions are needed to establish realistic, cost effective cleanup goals. One such indirect method is the proximal analog approach, in which premining conditions are estimated using data from nearby mineralized areas that are unaffected by mining. In this paper, we combine the proximal analog approach with a quantitative mass balance framework using data from a spatially-detailed synoptic sampling campaign. The combined approach is applied to Cinnamon Gulch, a headwater stream with numerous draining adits. Synoptic sampling results indicate that three of the top five metal sources are affected by mining activities, and stream segments draining these sources account for a large percentage of overall metal loading within the study reach. These initial calculations overestimate the effects of mining, as the affected stream segments were likely acidic and metal rich prior to mining. Premining loads and concentrations were therefore determined through a replacement approach in which the chemistry of each mining-affected stream segment is revised based on proximal analog concentrations. The revised loading profiles indicate that 15–17% of the Al, Cd, Cu, Mn, Ni, and Zn loads are attributable to mining, whereas the mining contribution for Pb is 40%. Premining concentrations of Al, Cd, Cu, Mn, and Zn are estimated to be in excess of aquatic life standards over the length of the study reach.
Additional publication details
Cinnamon gulch revisited: Another look at separating natural and mining-impacted contributions to instream metal load