Hydrology and water quality of the copper-nickel study region, northeastern Minnesota

Open-File Report 80-739

Prepared in cooperation with Minnesota Environmental Quality Board and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources



Data were collected on the hydrology of the Copper-Nickel study region to identify the location and nature of groundwater resources, determine the flow characteristics and general quality of the major streams, and determine the potential effects of mining copper and nickel on the hydrologic stream. Groundwater generally occurs in local flow systems within surficial deposits and in fractures in the upper few hundred feet of bedrock. Yields commonly range from 1 to 5 gallons per minute from wells in surficial materials and bedrock, but can be as much as 1,000 gallons per minute from wells in the sand and gravel aquifer underlying the Embarrass River valley. Groundwater generally is calcium-magnesium bicarbonate types. Over a mineralized zone, groundwater has concentrations of copper and nickel greater than 5 micrograms per liter. The average annual runoff from streams in the study area is about 10 inches. About 60% of the annual runoff occurs during snowmelt in spring. Flood peaks are reduced in streams that have surface storage available in on-channel lakes and wetlands. Specific conductance in streams can exceed 250 micromhos per centimeter at 25 Celsius where mine dewatering supplements natural discharge. Estimated groundwater discharge to projected copper-nickel mines ranges from less than 25 to about 2,000 gallons per minute. The introduction of trace metals from future mining activities to the groundwater system can be reduced if tailings basins and stockpiles are located on material which has low permeability, such as till, peat, or bedrock. (USGS)

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology and water quality of the copper-nickel study region, northeastern Minnesota
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
St. Paul, MN
Contributing office(s):
Minnesota Water Science Center
Document: vi, 87 p.; 2 Plates: 10.14 x 12.42 inches and 9.87 x 12.38 inches
United States
Other Geospatial:
Copper-Nickel Study Region
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