As a part of the U.S. Geological Survey Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative, metal-mining related wastes in the Boulder River study area in northern Jefferson County, Montana, have been evaluated for their environmental effects. The study area includes a 24-km segment of the Boulder River in and around Basin, Montana and three principal tributaries to the Boulder River: Basin Creek, Cataract Creek, and High Ore Creek. Mine and prospect waste dumps and mill wastes are located throughout the drainage basins of these tributaries and in the Boulder River. Mine-waste material has been transported into and down streams, where it has mixed with and become incorporated into the streambed sediments. In some localities, mine waste material was placed directly in stream channels and was transported downstream forming fluvial tailings deposits along the stream banks. Water quality and aquatic habitat have been affected by trace-element-contaminated sediment that moves from mine wastes into and down streams during snowmelt and storm runoff events within the Boulder River watershed.
Present-day trace element concentrations in the streambed sediments and fluvial tailings have been extensively studied. However, in order to accurately evaluate the impact of mining on the stream environments, it is also necessary to evaluate the pre-mining trace-element concentrations in the streambed sediments. Three types of samples have been collected for estimation of pre-mining concentrations: 1) streambed sediment samples from the Boulder River and its tributaries located upstream from historical mining activity, 2) stream terrace deposits located both upstream and downstream of the major tributaries along the Boulder River, and 3) cores through sediment in overbank deposits, in abandoned stream channels, or beneath fluvial tailings deposits. In this report, we present geochemical data for six stream-terrace samples and twelve sediment-core samples and lead isotopic data for six terrace and thirteen core samples. Sample localities are in table 1 and figures 1 and 2, and site and sample descriptions are in table 2.
Geochemical data have been presented for cores through fluvial tailings on High Ore Creek, on upper Basin Creek, and on Jack Creek and Uncle Sam Gulch. Geochemical and lead isotopic data for modern streambed-sediment samples have been presented by Fey and others.
Lead isotopic determinations in bed sediments have been shown to be an effective tool for evaluating the contributions from various sources to the metals in bed sediments. However, in order to make these calculations, the lead isotopic compositions of the contaminant sources must also be known. Consequently, we have determined the lead isotopic compositions of five streambed-sediment samples heavily contaminated with fluvial mine waste immediately downstream from large mines in the Boulder River watershed in order to determine the lead isotopic signatures of the contaminants. Summary geochemical data for the contaminants are presented here and geochemical data for the streambed-sediment samples are given by Fey and others.
Downstream from the Katie mill site and Jib tailings, fluvial deposits of mill tailings are present on a 10-m by 50-m bar in the Boulder River below the confluence with Basin Creek. The source of these tailings is not known, but fluvial tailings are also present immediately downstream from the Katie mill site, which is immediately upstream from the confluence with Basin Creek. Nine cores of fluvial tailings from this bar were analyzed.
Dendrochronology samples were taken at several stream terrace localities to provide age control on the stream terrace deposits. Trees growing on the surfaces of stream terraces provide a minimum age for the terrace deposits, although floods subsequent to the trees' growth could have deposited post-mining overbank deposits around the trees. Historical data were also used to provide estimates of minimum ages of cultural features and to bracket the age of events.
|Title||Chemical data and lead isotopic compositions of geochemical baseline samples from streambed sediments and smelter slag, lead isotopic compositions in fluvial tailings, and dendrochronology results from the Boulder River watershed, Jefferson County, Montan|
|Authors||Daniel M. Unruh, David L. Fey, Stan E. Church|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative|