Abandoned Mine Site Characterization and Cleanup Handbook by Nick Cato, Shahid Mahmud

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By Nick Cato, Shahid Mahmud

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Sinkholes or depressions in the landscape interrupt surface water drainage patterns; ponds and streams may be drained or channels may be redirected. Farmland can be affected to the point that equipment cannot conduct surface preparation activities; irrigation systems and drainage tiles may be disrupted. In developed areas, subsidence has the potential to affect building foundations and walls, highways, and pipelines. However, metal mines are often located in remote areas where there is a lack of development, minimizing this risk.

This Mineral Creek survey shows a significant degradation of habitat quality below the mine. Pinto Cree k, which receive d a massive discharge of tailings and pregnant leach solution from an active copper mine, was also surveyed. The tailings had a smothering, scouring effect on the stream. Pinto Creek is gradually recovering from this devastating d ischarge thro ugh the import of native species from unaffected tributaries. However, the gene pool of the native fish is severely limited as only one age group of fish has repopulated Pinto Creek.

The Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund site is an example of a mining site affected by airborne pollutants. The complex includes the Bunker Hill Mine (lead and zinc), a milling and concentration operation, a lead smelter, a silver refinery, an electrolytic zinc plant, a phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer plant, sulfuric acid plants, and a cadmium plant. EPA has since demolished and capped the smelter complex. The major environmental problems at the Site were caused by smelter operations and mining and milling.

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