Watershed Contamination from Hard Rock Mining
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
- Diel cycling of trace elements in streams draining mineralized areas: Gammons, C.H., Nimick, D.A., and Parker, S.R., in Environmental Geochemistry for Modern Mining, in Reviews in Economic Geology, Littleton, Colo., Society of Economic Geologists (IN PRESS).
- Laboratory studies of biostimulated uranium reduction by ISR aquifer sediments and suboxic remobilization of sequestered uranium, (Chapter 3): Fuller, C.C., and Akstin, K.C., in Assessing the Potential for Biorestoration of Uranium In Situ Recovery Sites: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission NUREG-CR. (IN PRESS).
- The importance of mineralogical input into Geomet programs (Keynote paper): Hoal, K.O., Woodhead, J., and Smith, K., in Proceedings of the Second AusIMM International Geometallurgy Conference--GeoMet 2013, Brisbane, Australia, September 30-October 2, 2013, p. 16. (IN PRESS).
- Environmental Sampling and Monitoring for the Mine Life Cycle--Management Technologies for Metal Mining Influenced Water Series: McLemore, V.T., Smith, K.S., and Russell, C.C., eds, Englewood, Colo., Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc., (8 chapters, 6 appendices) (IN PRESS).
- Sampling considerations in the mining environment (Chapter 3): Smith, K.S., McLemore, V.T., and C.C., R., in McLemore, V.T., Smith, K.S., and Russell, C.C., eds., Environmental Sampling and Monitoring for the Mine Life Cycle--Management Technologies for Metal Mining Influenced Water Series, Englewood, Colo., Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc. (IN PRESS).
- Sampling and monitoring during the phases of mining (Chapter 2): McLemore, V.T., Smith, K.S., and Russell, C.C., in McLemore, V.T., Smith, K.S., and Russell, C.C., eds., Environmental Sampling and Monitoring for the Mine Life Cycle--Management Technologies for Metal Mining Influenced Water Series, Englewood, Colo., Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc. (IN PRESS).
- Simultaneous estimation of local-scale and flow path-scale dual-domain mass transfer parameters using geoelectrical monitoring: Briggs, M.A., Day-Lewis, F.D., Ong, J.B.T., Curtis, G.P., and Lane, J.W., 2013, Water Resources Research, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20397.
- A framework for quantitative assessment of impacts related to energy and mineral resource development: Haines, S., Diffendorfer, J., Balistrieri, L., Berger, B., Cook, T., DeAngelis, D., Doremus, H., Gautier, D., Gallegos, T., Gerritsen, M., Graffy, E., Hawkins, S., Johnson, K., Macknick, J., McMahon, P., Modde, T., Pierce, B., Schuenemeyer, J., Semmens, D., Simon, B., Taylor, J., and Walton-Day, K., 2013, Natural Resources Research, p. 1-15, doi:10.1007/s11053-013-9208-6.
- Evaluating chemical extraction techniques for the determination of uranium oxidation state in reduced aquifer sediments: Stoliker, D.L., Campbell, K.M., Fox, P.M., Singer, D.M., Kaviani, N., Carey, M., Peck, N.E., Bargar, J.R., Kent, D.B., and Davis, J.A., 2013, Environmental Science and Technology, v. 47, no. 16, p. 9225-9232, doi:10.1021/es401450v.
- Arsenic and mercury in the soils of an industrial city in the Donets Basin, Ukraine: Conko, K.M., Landa, E.R., Kolker, A., Kozlov, K., Gibb, H.J., Centeno, J.A., Panov, B.S., and Panov, Y.B., 2013, Soil and Sediment Contamination--An International Journal, v. 22, no. 5, p. 574-593, doi:10.1080/15320383.2013.750270.
Links to other USGS Information on Hard Rock Mining Contamination