Watershed Contamination from Hard Rock Mining
Detailed vertical sampling across a mixing zone as acid, metal-rich water from Cement Creek (left) joins near-neutral water of the Upper Animas River (right), near Silverton, Colorado. Reactions in mixing zones affect the transport of metals for hundreds of kilometers downstream.
Bibliography 842 Publications
Information on All USGS Mine Drainage
Watersheds affected by active and/or abandoned hard rock mining (HRM) often have hundreds of mining-related sites with
little information on their relative significance as sources of metals contamination and acid mine drainage. Furthermore,
natural weathering of the geologic deposits, which are sought out for metal deposits, can be a source of contamination even
in the absence of mining activities. The nature of such distributed natural and anthropogenic sources makes a traditional
site by site cleanup approach grossly inefficient and likely ineffective.
The overall goal of HRM research is to provide improved information and tools to support decisions related to management,
risk assessment, remediation planning, and mitigation of the anthropogenic effects of mine drainage on the surrounding
watersheds and ecosystems. The principal research objectives are to a) characterize hydrologic and biogeochemical processes
that affect dispersal of metals and associated contaminants and b) describe contaminant pathways to organisms. Current
research expands on previous Toxic Substances Hydrology (Toxics) Program hard rock research by including investigations
across broader temporal and spatial scales and by integrating research on bioaccumulation and the effects of metal
contamination on organisms with investigations on biogeochemical and hydrologic processes that affect transport and fate of
metals in streams and near-stream ground-water systems. Two guiding principles of the research are (1) interdisciplinary
coordination to integrate all factors and processes that control the affects of HRM on watersheds and ecosystems from source
to receptors, and (2) synthesis of interdisciplinary knowledge across scales to make relevant to the practical management
decision making, including liaison with land management agencies for technology transfer and effective identification of
Project activities are undertaken in watersheds with various types of climate, hydrogeology and mining techniques:
Hardrock Mining in Rocky Mountain Terrain -- Upper Arkansas
Hardrock Mining in Southwest Alluvial Basins -- Pinal Creek,
Ground-Water Contamination by Heavy Metals -- Tar Creek,
USGS Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative -- Upper Animas River
Watershed, Colorado, and Boulder River Watershed, Montana
Arsenic Contamination from Hard Rock Mining -- Whitewood
Creek-Belle Fourche River, South Dakota [Completed]
The Summitville Mine and its Downstream Effects
Program Headlines on Hard Rock Mining Related Research
Other Program Hard Rock Mining Research
Meetings and Conferences
- Bioavailability and bioaccumulation of metal based engineered nanomaterials (Me-ENMs) in aquatic environments--Concepts and processes (Chapter 5): Luoma, S.N., Khan, F., and Croteau, M.-N., in Lead, J., and Valsami-Jones, E., eds., Nanoscience and the Environment, Elsevier, ISBN:9780080994086 (IN PRESS).
- Effects and quantification of acid runoff from sulfide-bearing rock deposited during construction of highway E18, Norway: Hindar, A., and Nordstrom, D.K., Applied Geochemistry (IN PRESS).
- Experimental studies to characterize uranium sequestration during biostimulated reduction and in response to the return of oxic conditions in shallow aquifers: Fuller, C.C., Johnson, K.J., Akstin, K.C., Singer, D.M., Yabusaki, S.B., Fang, Y., and Fuhrmann, M., U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission NUREG/CR-7178 (IN PRESS).
- Diel cycling of trace elements in streams draining mineralized areas--A review: Gammons, C.H., Nimick, D.A., and Parker, S.R., Applied Geochemistry, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.05.008 (IN PRESS).
- Biogeochemical aspects of uranium mineralization, mining, milling, and remediation: Campbell, K.M., Gallegos, T.J., and Landa, E.R., in Environmental Geochemistry for Modern Mining--Reviews in Economic Geology, Society of Economic Geologists (SEG) (IN PRESS).
- Mercury concentrations and distribution in soil, water, mine waste leachates, and air in and around mercury mines in the Big Bend region, Texas, USA: Gray, J.E., Theodorakos, P.M., Fey, D.L., and Krabbenhoft, D.P., 2014, Environmental Geochemistry and Health, doi:10.1007/s10653-014-9628-1 (Advanced Web release).
- Use of natural and applied tracers to guide targeted remediation efforts in an acid mine drainage system, Colorado Rockies, USA: Cowie, R., Williams, M.W., Wireman, M., and Runkel, R.L., 2014, Water (Switzerland), v. 6, no. 4, p. 745-777, doi:10.3390/w6040745.
- Processes of zinc attenuation by biogenic manganese oxides forming in the hyporheic zone of pinal creek, Arizona: Fuller, C.C., and Bargar, J.R., 2014, Environmental Science and Technology, v. 48, no. 4, p. 2165-2172, doi:10.1021/es402576f.
Links to other USGS Information on Hard Rock Mining Contamination