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Ground geophysical study of the Buckeye mine tailings, Boulder watershed, Montana

January 1, 2000

The Buckeye mine site is located in the Boulder River watershed along Basin Creek, in northern Jefferson County, Montana. This project is part of the Boulder River watershed Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative, and is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The site includes a large flotation milltailing deposit, which extends to the stream and meadows below the mine. These tailings contain elevated levels of metals, such as silver, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc. Metal-rich fluvial tailings containing these metals, are possible sources of ground and surface water contamination. Geophysical methods were used to characterize the sediments at the Buckeye mine site. Ground geophysical surveys, including electromagnetics, DC resistivity, and total field magnetic methods, were used to delineate anomalies that probably correlate with subsurface metal contamination. Subsurface conductivity was mapped using EM-31 and EM-34 terrain conductivity measuring systems. The conductivity maps represent variation of concentration of dissolved solids in the subsurface from a few meters, to an approximate depth of 30 meters. Conductive sulfides several centimeters thick were encountered in a shallow trench, dug in an area of very high conductivity, at a depth of approximately 1 to1.5 meters. Laboratory measurements of samples of the sulfide layers show the conductivity is on the order of 1000 millisiemens. DC resistivity soundings were used to quantify subsurface conductivity variations and to estimate the depth to bedrock. Total field magnetic measurements were used to identify magnetic metals in the subsurface. The EM surveys identified several areas of relatively high conductivity and detected a conductive plume extending to the southwest, toward the stream. This plume correlates well with the potentiometric surface and direction of ground water flow, and with water quality data from monitoring wells in and around the tailings. The electrical geophysical data suggests there has been vertical migration of high dissolved solids. A DC sounding made on a nearby granite outcrop to the north of the mine showed that the shallow conductivity is on the order of 5 millisiemens/m. Granite underlying the mine tailings, with similar electrical properties as the outcropping area, may be more than 30 meters deep.

Publication Year 2000
Title Ground geophysical study of the Buckeye mine tailings, Boulder watershed, Montana
DOI 10.3133/ofr00371
Authors Robert R. McDougal, Bruce D. Smith
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2000-371
Index ID ofr00371
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program