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Saturday, August 29, 2015

An acid mine drainage explainer, and a curious account of the Gold King circa 1901

Frustrated by a general misunderstanding among the public of how the water in the Gold King got polluted in the first place, I put together an acid mine drainage explainer for High Country News. I even drew my own diagrams for it, because I couldn't, for the life of me, find one on the intertubes that did simply showed what was going on. Oh, and I can't draw.


Anyway. If you read the explainer, you'll see that I make passing reference to a 1901 USGS report that makes particular note of an unusual quality of the Gold King Mine: It's dry.

At first, I discounted this, because the reference is to the "lower levels" of the mine. I took this to refer to the American Tunnel of the Gold King, which I believe was located about where the American Tunnel of the Sunnyside is now. Yet the blowout actually occurred in what's now called the Upper Gold King Mine. So the information seemed irrelevant. But then I read a little bit more about the Gold King:
Wait! It lies at 12,500 feet? But the Sunnyside Mine and today's American Tunnel, which is very close to where the Gold King Mill was located, is at just 10,600 feet in elevation. Then there was this:
Hmmm... The Upper Gold King mine is located at about 11,600 feet. Was the reference to the dry mine workings, then, actually a reference to the Upper Gold King? I'm not sure what to make of this, but I'm throwing it to my knowledgeable readers and commenters to see what you think. The full 1901 report is linked to above.

13 comments:

  1. I was confused about the naming of the various workings also. Here is what I have found:

    The Gold King level 1 portal is the original Gold King Mine.
    The Gold King level ? portal is the original Sampson Mine.
    The Gold King level 7 portal was called the American Tunnel.
    The Mill Level Tunnel / Gold King Tunnel is the one that was later extended by Standard Metals and then named the American Tunnel.

    http://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/files/OAHP/crforms_edumat/pdfs/655.pdf page 112

    https://books.google.com/books?id=OuQ_AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
    page 217

    Pat

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    Replies
    1. Yup. That's what I read.

      The report about the Gold King being dry, was written in 1901, which is also the same year that the American Tunnel, or Gold King #7, intersected the ore zone.
      The 'other' American Tunnel, or lower Gold King at Gladstone was being driven in 1901 as well.

      The 'lower levels' he refers to....just how low were they at the time? I doubt he was speaking of the #7, but I don't know that.

      Bill

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  2. Maybe someone can try to look at some of the items listed in this:

    http://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/files/Researchers/996%20Gold%20King%20Mines%20Corp.pdf

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
  3. Here is a map showing the mining claims.
    It also labels the portals (No 1, Sampson, and No 7).
    Note the 2 springs marked to the east of the No 1 portal.
    There is a stamp that says it was received Sep 9th, 1997.

    http://drmsweblink.state.co.us/drmsweblink/0/doc/657817/Page1.aspx

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
  4. 08-30-2005 Inspection Report.

    http://drmsweblink.state.co.us/drmsweblink/0/doc/354214/Page1.aspx

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
  5. Map and cross section showing Gold King and part of the Sunnyside workings.

    http://drmsweblink.state.co.us/drmsweblink/0/doc/673522/Page1.aspx

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just to confuse us even more.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=0s42AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA296

    I wonder where that air shaft is???????

    According to the 655.pdf document "the Anglo Saxon Mining & Milling Company to drive
    the Gold King Tunnel from the mill at Gladstone (later renamed the American Tunnel)."

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disregard!
      This is referring to the Anglo Saxon Mine. I think.

      Pat

      Delete
  7. And another book with basically the same thing abut the Anglo-Saxon Tunnel.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=X7w_AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA122

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disregard!
      This is referring to the Anglo Saxon Mine. I think.

      Pat

      Delete
  8. Integrated Investigations of Environmental Effects of Historical Mining in the Animas River Watershed, San Juan County, Colorado

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1651/

    This document has a list of all mines with maps, and also tables that have the latitude and longitude for each.

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1651/downloads/Vol1_combinedChapters/vol1_chapE5.pdf

    Pat

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  9. Something I need to point out....

    In your first cartoon, you show a 'clean spring', and 'happy fish'.
    In reference to Cement Creek.....that's debatable. It's questionable if there were ever any fish in Cement Creek, although I haven't found any documentation on that. There is documentation on the water being undrinkable in 1876, which is not long after work started in the area in 1874. Was it the mining, or was that true before the mining? When & why did Cement Creek get it's name? Maybe it's like 'Iron Creek', or 'Bitter Creek' around Summitville. Acid water draining exists without any mining. Not uncommon at all.
    It would be foolish to believe that there was NO acid water draining prior to any mining, as highly mineralized as the area is. How much? Don't know.

    It would also be foolish to believe that mining will not make acid leaching easier. The drifts, stopes etc, play a game of 'connect the dots' with all the mineralized slips & fractures, and very importantly, the water flow. Also helps to add oxygen to the mix, not to mention all the blasted rock containing sulfides left about for the water to percolate thru, easier than when it was in situ.

    As far as the report from 1901....hard to say what the 'lower levels' were at that point. The lower in the mountain, the more chances of hitting water. This relates to that 'equilibrium' thing. The more you mine, the more you 'connect the dots', the more water you can, and will find. Drift in at a lower altitude, in fractured up ground, which is what the area is made of, the less water at the upper levels. Gravity....is heartless.....

    I worked at a silver/gold mine in the 80's. When I got there, we were pumping out about 300 GPM. (no worries....almost no sulfides) The theory was, we would drain the mountain, and it would dry up. Over 3 years later, after much mining, we were pumping almost 3000 GPM. Connect the dots.
    The mine was shut down after silver went below 5 bucks an ounce, and was eventually left to it's own. It took a few years, but water now runs out the top of the ramp at the portal, at 6900 FASL. Lower workings were below 6500. Equilibrium? Call it what you like.

    Good links posted here. Lots to read. :)

    Bill




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill: Yes, if you read my other coverage of this event, including the article that the above diagrams actually illustrate: ( http://www.hcn.org/articles/acid-mine-drainage-explainer-animas-pollution-epa-gold-king ) you'll see that I have often repeated the Cement Creek caveat: It never supported fish, has always been "dead," etc. This conclusion is supported by work done by the USGS and the Animas River Stakeholders Group, as well as by pre-mining historical accounts. Acid rock drainage has always been around in the upper Animas.

      However, as you also note, mining exacerbated the problem, killing fish where they once thrived in downstream reaches of the Animas.

      Thanks for reading, and for commenting!

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