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Research — Geologic Hazards




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AML Project: Inventory and Characterization of Inactive/abandoned mine (AML) features in New Mexico

The NMBGMR has been examining the environmental effects of mine waste rock piles throughout New Mexico since the early 1990s. There are tens of thousands of inactive or abandoned mine features in 273 mining districts in New Mexico (including coal, uranium, metals, and industrial minerals districts), however many of them have not been inventoried or prioritized for reclamation. The New Mexico Abandoned Mine Lands Bureau of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department estimates that there are more than 15,000 abandoned mine features in the state. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently estimated that more than 10,000 mine features are on BLM lands in New Mexico and only 705 sites have been reclaimed. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources has collected published and unpublished data on the districts, mines, deposits, occurrences, and mills since it was created in 1927 and is slowly converting historical data into a relational database, the New Mexico Mines Database. More than 8,000 mines are recorded in the New Mexico Mines Database and more than 7,000 are inactive or abandoned. These mines often include two or more actual mine features.

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Animas River Long Term Monitoring

Our agency has been collaborating with the New Mexico Environment Department on a hydro-geology study along the Animas River to better understand the groundwater and surface water interactions. This research initiated in response to the Gold King Mine spill (August 2015), as part of a long term monitoring effort. The role of the NM Bureau of Geology has been to examine the hydrologic connections between groundwater and the Animas River, the irrigation ditches, and the private wells.

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Hydrogeology of the Questa Area

The issues are a gap in regional scientific information for deep and shallow, sediment-volcanic aquifers and surface waters in the Questa area; including sustainable sources of drinking water, sources of water to springs and streams that feed fisheries and discharge to the Rio Grande, the character of natural, background water quality, and possible impacts from mine-related waters.

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Monitoring the recovery of Santa Fe's Buckman Water Well Field

High-production municipal water well fields can depress water levels, cause land subsidence, and disturb subsurface aquifer temperatures. As an example, the City of Santa Fe’s Buckman well field located along the Rio Grande, was pumped at high rates from 1989 to 2003. This high-rate pumping led to a precipitous drop in water level (>100 m), caused measureable ground subsidence over a 25 km2 area (based on 1995-1997 InSAR [satellite-based] data), and created a land-surface fissure with 20 cm of vertical displacement. Pumping rates were reduced after 2003 and water levels have since risen ~120 m.

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photo by: Colin Cikowski
New Mexico's Volcanic Hazards

New Mexico is home to many hundreds of volcanoes that erupted during the last several million years. However, the exact timing of these eruptions has proven difficult to determine by many previous studies. An ongoing NSF-funded project, led by NM Bureau of Geology researcher Matthew Zimmerer, examines the timing of eruptions during the last 500,000 years in order to understand the patterns of volcanism in space and time. This information provides the foundation for an assessment of volcanic hazards in New Mexico.

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Questa Rock Pile Weathering Stability Study

Chevron, Inc. (formerly Molycorp, Inc.) funded a major consortium to assess and identify the future risk of weathering on physical failure of existing rock piles based on the physical, chemical and mineralogical composition and weathering of the piles at Chevron's Questa mine, in Taos County, New Mexico.

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Tephra layers in Rio Grande Rift Sediments

The Jemez Mountains volcanic field, in northwestern New Mexico, has been active for at least the past 16.5 million years, and has produced a large number of explosive and effusive volcanic eruptions during that time. Volcanic ash from the Jemez Mountains volcanic field provides a temporal record of the young eruptions from the caldera and many such deposits have been recognized in a number locations in New Mexico. The ash is present as thick deposits near the eruptive source, and as thinner deposits interbedded in ancestral Rio Grande river sediments at greater distances from the vent.

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