Watershed approach to evaluating impacts of abandoned mines in the Bear Butte Creek basin of the Black Hills

Davis, A. D. ; Durkin, T. V. ; Webb, C. J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
This project took a watershed approach in the evaluation of water-quality impacts from past mining activities and current restoration projects in the Bear Butte Creek basin, a small and well-defined drainage in a heavily mined area of the northern Black Hills. The basin contains numerous inactive and abandoned mines, as well as a heap-leach surface gold mine. Bear Butte Creek normally loses all of its discharge to sinkholes in the Madison Limestone aquifer. Thus, it can affect the water quality of this regionally important water resource. Water-quality data were analyzed, stream surveys were conducted and two abandoned-mine restoration projects were monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of the watershed approach and to identify practical remediation techniques that could be applied to other watersheds. A geographic information system (GIS) was developed to organize information on stream quality, abandoned mine locations, and other geologic and hydrologic data. The watershed approach toward assessing and reclaiming abandoned mines appears to be effective when compared to a point-source approach that might improve water quality at specific sites but not result in significant overall improvement to the watershed because of adjacent sources.
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