Net Acid Production, Acid Neutralizing Capacity, and Associated Mineralogical and Geochemical Characteristics of Animas River Watershed Igneous Rocks Near Silverton, Colorado

Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5063
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
By: , and 



This report presents results from laboratory and field studies involving the net acid production (NAP), acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), and magnetic mineralogy of 27 samples collected in altered volcanic terrain in the upper Animas River watershed near Silverton, Colo., during the summer of 2005. Sampling focused mainly on the volumetrically important, Tertiary-age volcanic and plutonic rocks that host base- and precious-metal mineralization in the study area. These rocks were analyzed to determine their potential for neutralization of acid-rock drainage. Rocks in the study area have been subjected to a regional propylitic alteration event, which introduced calcite, chlorite (clinochlore), and epidote that have varying amounts and rates of acid neutralizing capacity (ANC). Locally, hydrothermal alteration has consumed any ANC and introduced minerals, mainly pyrite, that have a high net acid production (NAP). Laboratory studies included hydrogen pyroxide (H2O2) acid digestion and subsequent sodium hydroxide (NaOH) titration to determine NAP, and sulfuric acid (H2SO4) acid titration experiments to determine ANC. In addition to these environmental rock-property determinations, mineralogical, chemical, and petrographic characteristics of each sample were determined through semiquantitative X-ray diffractometry (Rietveld method), optical mineralogy, wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence, total carbon-carbonate, and inductively coupled plasma?mass spectrometric analysis. An ANC ranking was assigned to rock samples based on calculated ANC quantity in kilograms/ton (kg/t) calcium carbonate equivalent and ratios of ANC to NAP. Results show that talus near the southeast Silverton caldera margin, composed of andesite clasts of the Burns Member of the Silverton Volcanics, has the highest ANC (>100 kg/t calcium carbonate equivalent) with little to no NAP. The other units found to have moderate to high ANC include (a) andesite lavas and volcaniclastic rocks of the San Juan Formation, west and northwest of the Silverton caldera, and (b) the Picayune Megabreccia Member of Sapinero Mesa Tuff along the western San Juan caldera margin. Sultan Mountain stock, composed of granitoid intrusive rocks, was shown to have low ANC and moderate NAP. Sequential leachate analyses on a suite of whole-rock samples from the current and a previous study indicate that host rock composition and mineralogy control leachate compositions. The most mafic volcanic samples had high leachate concentrations for Mg, Fe, and Ca, whereas silicic volcanic samples had lower ferromagnesiun compositions. Samples with high chlorite abundance also had high leachable Mg concentrations. Trace-element substitution, such as Sr for Ca in plagioclase, controls high Sr concentrations in those samples with high plagioclase abundance. High Ti abundance in leachate was observed in those samples with high magnetite concentrations. This is likely due to samples containing intergrown magnetite-ilmenite. Whole rocks having high trace-element concentrations have relatively high leachate trace-element abundances. Some lavas of the San Juan Formation and Burns Member of the Silverton Volcanics had elevated Zn-, Cd-, and Pb-leachate concentrations. Manganese was also elevated in one San Juan Formation sample. Other San Juan Formation and Burns Member lavas had low to moderate trace-element abundances. One sample of the pyroxene andesite member of the Silverton Volcanics had elevated concentrations for As and Mo. Most other pyroxene andesite member samples had low leachate trace-element abundances. Mine-waste-leachate analyses indicated that one mine-waste sample had elevated concentrations of Cu (1.5 orders of magnitude), Zn (1 order of magnitude), As (1 order of magnitude), Mo (1.5 to 2 orders of magnitude), Cd (1 to 2 orders of magnitude), and Pb (2 to 3 orders of magnitude) compared to whole rocks. These data indicate the importance of whole-rock geochemistry or leachate analys

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Net Acid Production, Acid Neutralizing Capacity, and Associated Mineralogical and Geochemical Characteristics of Animas River Watershed Igneous Rocks Near Silverton, Colorado
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2008-5063
ISBN 9781411321649
DOI 10.3133/sir20085063
Edition Version 1.0
Year Published 2008
Language ENGLISH
Publisher Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s) U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: vi, 63 p.; Plate: 34 x 28 inches; Downloads Directory
Projection Universal Transverse Mercator
Scale 24000
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
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