Metal-mining related wastes in the Boulder River basin study area in northern Jefferson County, Montana affect water quality as a result of acid-generation and toxic-metal solubilization. Mine waste and tailings in the unnamed tributary to Jack Creek draining the Bullion mine area and in Uncle Sam Gulch below the Crystal mine are contributors to water quality degradation of Basin Creek and Cataract Creek, Montana. Basin Creek and Cataract Creek are two of three tributaries to the Boulder River in the study area. The bed sediment geochemistry in these two creeks has also been affected by the acidic drainage from these two mines. Geochemical analysis of 42 tailings cores and eleven bed-sediment samples was undertaken to determine the concentrations of Ag, As, Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn present in these materials. These elements are environmentally significant, in that they can be toxic to fish and/or the invertebrate organisms in the aquatic food chain. Suites of one-inch cores of mine waste and tailings material were taken from two breached tailings impoundments near the site of the Bullion mine and from Uncle Sam Gulch below the Crystal mine. Forty-two core samples were taken and divided into 211 subsamples. The samples were analyzed by ICP-AES (inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy) using a mixed-acid (HC1-HNO3-HC1O4-HF) digestion. Results of the core analyses show that some samples contain moderate to very high concentrations of arsenic (as much as 13,000 ppm), silver (as much as 130 ppm), cadmium (as much as 260 ppm), copper (as much as 9,000 ppm), lead (as much as 11,000 ppm), and zinc (as much as 18,000 ppm). Eleven bed-sediment samples were also subjected to the mixed-acid total digestion, and a warm (50°C) 2M HC1-1% H2O2 leach and analyzed by ICP-AES. Results indicate that bed sediments of the Jack Creek tributary are impacted by past mining at the Bullion and Crystal mines. The contaminating metals are mostly contained in the 2M HC1-1% H2O2 leachable phase, which are the hydrous amorphous iron- and manganese-hydroxide coatings on detrital sediment particles.
|Title||Analytical results for Bullion Mine and Crystal Mine waste samples and bed sediments from a small tributary to Jack Creek and from Uncle Sam Gulch, Boulder River watershed, Montana|
|Authors||David L. Fey, Stan E. Church, Christopher J. Finney|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program|