INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND:
Prince William Forest Park is situated at the northeastern end of the Virginia Gold-Pyrite belt northwest of the town of Dumfries, VA. The U. S. Marine Corps Reservation at Quantico borders the park on the west and south, and occupies part of the same watershed. Two abandoned mines are found within the park: the Cabin Branch pyrite mine, a historic source of acid mine drainage, and the Greenwood gold mine, a source of mercury contamination. Both are within the watershed of Quantico Creek (Fig.1). The Cabin Branch mine (also known as the Dumfries mine) lies about 2.4 km northwest of the town of Dumfries. It exploited a 300 meter-long, lens-shaped body of massive sulfide ore hosted by metamorphosed volcanic rocks; during its history over 200,000 tons of ore were extracted and processed locally. The site became part of the National Capitol Region of the National Park Service in 1940 and is currently managed by the National Park Service. In 1995 the National Park Service, in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy reclaimed the Cabin Branch site.
The Virginia Gold-Pyrite belt, also known as the central Virginia volcanic-plutonic belt, is host to numerous abandoned metal mines (Pavlides and others, 1982), including the Cabin Branch deposit. The belt itself extends from its northern terminus near Cabin Branch, about 50 km south of Washington, D.C., approximately 175 km to the southwest into central Virginia. It is underlain by metamorphosed volcanic and clastic (non-carbonate) sedimentary rocks, originally deposited approximately 460 million years ago during the Ordovician Period (Horton and others, 1998).
Three kinds of deposits are found in the belt: volcanic-associated massive sulfide deposits, low-sulfide quartz-gold vein deposits, and gold placer deposits. The massive sulfide deposits such as Cabin Branch were historically mined for their sulfur, copper, zinc, and lead contents, but also yielded byproduct gold and silver. The environmental impact of massive sulfide deposits can be substantial. These deposits are characterized by high concentrations of heavy-metal sulfide minerals, hosted by silicate rocks. Thus, weathering of these deposits and their mine wastes has the potential to generate heavy-metal laden sulfuric acid that can have negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems. In addition, lead associated with solid mine wastes has the potential for human health impacts through ingestion. The heavy metals that are encountered in these deposits and are most likely to cause environmental impacts include copper, zinc, lead, cadmium, and arsenic. In addition, the weathering of pyrite releases large amounts of iron, and the acid generated attacks the country rocks and causes the release of large amounts of aluminum, which also can severely impact aquatic ecosystems.
A reclamation attempt was made at the site in 1995, including construction of storm-water diversion trenches around the abandoned mine area, grading tailings away from the stream bank, addition of pulverized limestone and topsoil, and revegetation. The post-reclamation chemistry of shallow groundwaters (<3 meters deep) shows a neutral pH on the southwestern bank of the stream but pH of 4.1 to 4.5 on the northeastern bank. The dominant ions are Fe2+ and SO42- (Seal, Haffner, Meier, and Pollio, 1999)
A ground electromagnetic survey was conducted over the site in 1999 as part of a wider study ( Seal, Haffner, and Meier, 1998a,b, 1999). It was hoped that a 3-D map of the soil conductivity derived from the survey could provide insight into the distribution of the mobilized sulfides present under the ground. This study was conducted in cooperation with the National Park Service
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
A ground electromagnetic survey used to map sulfides and acid sulfate ground waters at the abandoned Cabin Branch Mine, Prince William Forest Park, northern Virginia gold-pyrite belt
[U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
5 p.,  leaves of plates :col. ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.