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16: New perspectives on a 140-year legacy of mining and abandoned mine cleanup in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado

By
Douglas B. Yager
Douglas B. Yager
U.S. Geological Survey, Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Box 25046, Mailstop 973, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA
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David L. Fey
David L. Fey
U.S. Geological Survey, Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Box 25046, Mailstop 973, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA
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Thomas P. Chapin
Thomas P. Chapin
U.S. Geological Survey, Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center, Denver Federal Center, Box 25046, Mailstop 964D, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA
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Raymond H. Johnson
Raymond H. Johnson
Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., Contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Legacy Management, 2597 Legacy Way, Grand Junction, Colorado 81503-1789, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2016

Abstract

The Gold King mine water release that occurred on 5 August 2015 near the historical mining community of Silverton, Colorado, highlights the environmental legacy that abandoned mines have on the environment. During reclamation efforts, a breach of collapsed workings at the Gold King mine sent 3 million gallons of acidic and metal-rich mine water into the upper Animas River, a tributary to the Colorado River basin. The Gold King mine is located in the scenic, western San Juan Mountains, a region renowned for its volcano-tectonic and gold-silver-base metal mineralization history. Prior to mining, acidic drainage from hydrothermally altered areas was a major source of metals and acidity to streams, and it continues to be so. In addition to abandoned hard rock metal mines, uranium mine waste poses a long-term storage and immobilization challenge in this area. Uranium resources are mined in the Colorado Plateau, which borders the San Juan Mountains on the west. Uranium processing and repository sites along the Animas River near Durango, Colorado, are a prime example of how the legacy of mining must be managed for the health and well-being of future generations. The San Juan Mountains are part of a geoenvironmental nexus where geology, mining, agriculture, recreation, and community issues converge. This trip will explore the geology, mining, and mine cleanup history in which a community-driven, watershed-based stakeholder process is an integral part. Research tools and historical data useful for understanding complex watersheds impacted by natural sources of metals and acidity overprinted by mining will also be discussed.

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GSA Field Guide

Unfolding the Geology of the West

Stephen M. Keller
Stephen M. Keller
Colorado Geological Survey Colorado School of Mines 1801 19th Street Golden, Colorado 80401, USA
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Matthew L. Morgan
Matthew L. Morgan
Colorado Geological Survey Colorado School of Mines 1801 19th Street Golden, Colorado 80401, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
44
ISBN print:
9780813756448
Publication date:
January 01, 2016

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