Quantifying Effects of Metal Loading from Mine Drainage

Kimball, Briant A. ; Bencala, Kenneth E. ; Runkel, Robert L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 9
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Thousands of abandoned and inactive mines are located in environmentally sensitive mountain watersheds. Cost-effective remediation of mining sites in these watersheds requires knowledge of the most significant sources of metals to surface waters. The significance of a given source not only depends upon the concentrations of a toxic metal, but also on the total mass, or load of metal added to the stream. To determine loads, we combined tracer-injection methods, to provide reliable discharge measurements on a watershed scale, with synoptic sampling, to provide spatially detailed concentration data. The resulting load profiles indicate which sources have the greatest effect on streams, where natural attenuation of metal loads occurs, and where ground-water inflows are located. This is part of the information needed for planning remediation of mine-drainage effects. The approach is illustrated by comparing zinc loading curves from three watersheds affected by mine drainage.
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