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
USGS Numbered Series
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
U.S. Geological Survey ;
Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
vi, 80 p. :ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ;28 cm.