Abstract

Abandoned up-dip drift mines in high-sulphur coal are a major source of acid mine drainage (AMD) in Appalachia. Studies of mines in the Monday Creek watershed of southeastern Ohio show that mines are recharged by surface runoff into subsidence features that dilate the natural stress-relief fracture system. The direct connection between the ground surface and the mines leads to a rapid response in the hydrograph, with a one- to four-day lag between precipitation and corresponding peak mine discharge. Subsidence occurs in topographic depressions where overburden is presumably relatively thin. Subsidence features drain 20–36% of the surface area. Unsaturated storage appears to be volumetrically insignificant, so that far more recharge occurs than the 5% often assumed for this region. Mine storage can change rapidly due to subsidence recharge. Hydrologically, mines with subsidence features behave like karst systems, with meteoric ‘quickflow’ representing more than 50% of the total flow. Mine discharge concentrations are relatively uniform through time, suggesting either equilibrium controls on chemistry or drainage of a well-mixed pool, or both. Evidence of dilution by high flows is slight. The first high flows after a baseflow period show only a slight increase in concentrations, attributed to flushing of stored reaction products. Loadings (concentrations x flow) depend on volumetric discharge and as a consequence are highly variable. The Eh/pH environment in up-dip drift mines indicates that mine waters are in contact with the atmosphere at least part of the time, unlike a true groundwater. Iron buffering partly controls pH, which clusters around values of 3.6–5.0.

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