Use of the New Mexico Mines Database in Reclamation Studies Involving Mine Waste Rock Piles and Tailings
In Tailings and Mine Waste ‘03, Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse, ISBN 90 5809 593 2, p. 15-27
The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) has been collecting data on mining districts, mines, mills, and geochemistry since it was created in 1927. The Bureau has been slowly converting years of historical data into electronic format into a relational database that will be eventually available on the Web. The database includes information on mining districts, mines, mills, geochemistry (both solid and water), photographs (both recent and historic), and bibliography. The available data includes location, production, reserves, geologic, geochemical, historical and recent photographs, resource potential, mining, ownership, and other data. There are six main tables that comprise this database: Mines, District, Samples, Drillhole, County, and Projects. Each of these tables is linked to each other, where appropriate and all of the following tables are linked to one or more of these six main tables. Separate tables listing pit lakes, heap leaching sites, and tailings are linked to the main tables. Once the data is entered into appropriate databases with locations, the data can easily be converted to GIS format for displaying on maps; the mine locations are keyed to specific points as defined by latitude and longitude, whereas the districts are keyed to polygons. The purposes of this database are to provide computerized data that will aid in identifying and evaluating resource potential, resource development and management, production, and possible environmental concerns, such as physical hazards (i.e. hazardous mine openings), indoor radon, regional exposure to radiation from the mines, and point-sources of possible pollution in areas of known mineral deposits.
KEY WORDS: GIS, database, mines, mining districts, tailings, heap leaching, pit lakes
The Bureau 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and unpublished data on the districts, mines, deposits, occurrences, and mills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, using Microsoft Access 97.
The purposes of this database are to provide computerized data that will aid
in identifying and evaluating resource potential, resource development and management,
production, and possible environmental concerns, such as physical hazards (i.e.
hazardous mine openings), indoor radon, regional exposure to radiation from
the mines, and point-sources of possible contamination in areas of known mineral
deposits. These data will be useful to federal, state, and local government
agencies, public organizations, private industry, and individual citizens in
order to make land-use decisions. These data are particularly useful in identifying
mine sites in a given area and examining the potential for that mine site in
contributing metals and/or other contaminants to the watershed. The database
contains information on mine waste rock piles, tailings, and pit lakes.
The New Mexico Mines Database is intended to provide the best data available on mines and districts in New Mexico. New information is continuously becoming available and is being incorporated into the database as soon as possible.
2. THE NEW MEXICO MINES DATABASE
There are eight main tables that comprise
the New Mexico Mines Database: Mines, District, Samples, Drillhole, Waterwells,
County, Photographs, and Projects with approximately 70 supporting tables (Appendix
1, 2). Each of these tables is linked to each other, where appropriate and all
of the supporting tables are linked to one or more of these eight main tables.
The Mines table and supporting tables provides information on the mines, quarries, mineral deposits, occurrences, mills, and smelters located in New Mexico, and is defined by the mine id. The mine id is a unique mine identification number consisting of a prefix NM (for New Mexico), a two-letter abbreviation that represents the county followed by a unique number. The term mine is defined here as any mine, prospect, mineralized outcrop, altered area, mill, smelter, or other mining-related facility, including geothermal wells, other mineral wells, but excluding petroleum wells. Altered and mineralized areas are included where known even if never mined or developed, because these areas have particular importance in terms of mineral resource development and/or environmental impacts. A mineral deposit is an occurrence of any valuable commodity or mineral that is of a sufficient size and grade (concentration) that might, under favorable conditions, have potential for economic development. An ore deposit is a mineral deposit that has been tested and found to be of sufficient size, grade, and accessibility to be extracted at a profit at a specific time. Mineral deposits are not found just anywhere in the world. Instead they are relatively rare and depend upon certain natural geologic conditions to form. The requirement that an ore deposit must be extracted at a profit makes ore deposits even more rare.
The District table provides information on mining district, coal field, or the geographical area as defined by File and Northrop (1966), North and McLemore (1986), McLemore and Chenoweth (1989), Hoffman (1996), and McLemore (2001) and is defined by the district id. The district id is a unique identification number with prefix of DIS. The term mining district, as used in this report, is a group of mines and/or mineral deposits that occur in a geographically defined area and locally are defined by geologic criteria (mineralogy, lithology, stratigraphic horizons, structural features, etc.). The names of mining districts as established by File and Northrop (1966) are used wherever possible, but many districts have been combined and new districts have been added. There are 264 districts in the database. Not all mines are included in mining districts; many mines, especially industrial minerals deposits and aggregate deposits are not recognized as separate districts. Industrial minerals are any rock, mineral, or other naturally occurring material of economic value, excluding metals and energy minerals. These include perlite, pumice, gypsum, salt, mica, aggregates (crushed stone, sand and gravel), zeolite, calcite, both silica and chemical limestone flux, mineral desiccants, feldspar, clay, humate, and semi-precious gemstones.
The Samples table provides information on samples and is linked to geochemical data collected at a mine or within a district. Field_id is a unique field identification number. Sample_id is a unique sample identification number, and in many cases may be same as field identification number. Some samples are split into two or more size fractions after collection, thus requiring a separate unique sample identification number, but the same field identification number.
The Drillhole table provides information on the location, stratigraphy, chemistry, and ownership on drill holes in a district or at a mine site. The Drillhole table is linked to geochemistry and stratigraphy tables.
The Waterwells table provides information on ground water, including location, construction, stratigraphy, water levels, and hydraulics data, and is linked to the stratigraphy and chemistry data.
The County table is a list of counties in New Mexico, and a drop down table in the Districts and Mines tables. County production is linked to the county table. Please note that in 1983, Valencia County was split into two separate counties, Cibola County to the west and Valencia County to the east. The database reflects the current county, but earlier literature and file data refers to the original county designation.
The Photographs table provides data on the source, date, and captions for historic and recent photographs of mines and mining districts in New Mexico.
The Projects table provides information on Bureau of Geology projects.
3. AVAILABLE DATA
The available data for this database is from a variety of published and unpublished reports and miscellaneous files in the Bureau mining archive, and includes information on location, production, reserves, resource potential, significant deposits, geology, geochemistry (rock, water, etc.), well data, historical and recent photographs, mining methods, maps, ownership, and other data. Specific mine waste rock piles were sampled and analyzed to establish ranges in chemical composition (Herring et al., 1998; Munroe and McLemore, 1999; Munroe et al., 2000; Herring and McLemore, 2002); these data are included in the database. Since the database includes location information, the database can be added to GIS and incorporated with other GIS layers, such as the New Mexico Geochron database, the New Mexico Petroleum database, geologic maps, topography, geophysical data, and remote sensing.
4. QUAILITY CONTROL
The most difficult task is maintaining quality control of both the data being entered into the database and of the database. Quality control (QC) is a system of procedures, checks, audits, and corrective actions to ensure that data are collected, stored, and analyzed in an acceptable manner, and that technical aspects and reporting are adequate. The main objectives of a QC program are to:
- Document the procedures for data collection, preparation, and analysis.
- Provide assurance as to precision and accuracy of chemical analyses using replicate samples, cross-laboratory checks, and certified reference materials.
- Provide information regarding data analysis and interpretation.
- Define an acceptable magnitude of error on chemical analyses.
- Determine completeness of the data set.
- Define the decision-making process to be used.
- Provide a chain of custody of samples when required.
All of these objectives can be met with relational databases.
Students and Bureau Staff will input data into a database (ACCESS), which can then be converted into GIS format. Bureau Staff will check the database as it is being developed to make sure that data are being entered accurately. Bureau Staff will check the locations of the mines using USGS topographic quadrangle maps and GIS.
5. MISUSE OF DATA
One of the concerns about releasing these data is that the general public will have ready access to locations of inactive mines. Recreation in or around inactive mine sites is extremely dangerous, and can result in serious injury or death. According to MSHA statistics, 106 fatalities involving non-employees have occurred since 1999 at inactive mines throughout the U.S., including 28 through September 2002. Stay out and stay alive!
Chemical data provided in the New Mexico Mines Database must be used with extreme caution. Although we attempted to provide as accurate and complete data as possible, problems may still exist. Rarely do these data meet regulatory and statutory regulations and requirements that are required by government agencies at mine sites. This geochemical database can not be used in place of those regulations and statutory requirements. Many of the chemical data reported represent select, high-grade samples from the mine and are not always representative of the mineral deposit. Other agencies or individuals collected some of these data, as cited. Geochemical data of mine waste rock piles and tailings are included to provide ranges in the rock piles and tailings and were never intended to fully characterize these sites.
Production and reserve data also are provided in the database and must be used with caution. Mining production records and reserve data are generally poor, particularly for the earliest times and many early records are conflicting. These production and reserve figures are the best data available and were obtained from published and unpublished sources (New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources file data). However, production figures and reserve data are subject to change as new data are obtained. Specific questions regarding chemical, production, and reserve data should be sent to the authors.
The suitability of the data should be evaluated in the context of the purpose of the investigator. The Bureau has and is compiling data from the numerous sources at its disposal. The user is responsible for understanding the specific QA/QC and other documentation requirements of the investigation being conducted and the data should be used appropriately. Numerous references used in the development of the database are available in the New Mexico Bibliography kept by the Bureau. This provides an opportunity for the investigator to locate reports for further consulting, if desired.
6. INTEGRATION OF THE NEW MEXICO MINES DATABASE WITH THE USGS GEOENVIRONMENTAL MINERAL DEPOSIT MODELS
The geologic characteristics that geologists use to understand and classify mineral deposits are important keys to understanding the effects of mineral deposits on the environment. The most important geologic characteristics that are used to classify mineral deposits also are important in evaluating the environmental effects and include mineralogy (most important is the amount of pyrite), host rock lithology, metal association, and geochemistry. The New Mexico Mines Database includes this information on a district and mine scale, wherever the data are available.
Numerous classifications have been applied to mineral deposits to aid in exploration and evaluation of metallic resources (Lindgren et al., 1910; Lindgren, 1933; Eckstrand, 1984; Guilbert and Park, 1986; Cox and Singer, 1986; Roberts and Sheahan, 1988; Sheahan and Cherry, 1993). Early classifications were based on the form of the deposit or a combination of form and perceived chemical conditions of formation, such as Lindgren’s (1933) classification of mineral deposits associated with igneous rocks into epithermal, mesothermal, and hydrothermal. In the 1960s and 1970s, wide acceptance of plate tectonic theories led to the recognition that similar mineral deposits occur in areas of similar tectonic settings and resulted in classifications of mineral deposits according to tectonic settings (Sillitoe, 1972, 1981; Guilbert and Park, 1986). In the 1980s, mineral deposit models became popular which incorporated tectonic setting and physical and chemical characteristics of the deposits (Cox and Singer, 1986; Roberts and Sheahan, 1988; Sheahan and Cherry, 1993). In New Mexico, North and McLemore (1986, 1988) and McLemore (2001) classified the silver and gold deposits of New Mexico according to age, mineral assemblages, form, alteration, tectonic setting, and perceived origin. This classification, with a few modifications and numerous additions, is retained in this database and can be easily related to the USGS geoenvironmental mineral deposit models (du Bray, 1995), which provide geologic information that can be used to better understand, predict, minimize, and remediate potential environmental effects of mineral resources. Plumlee and Nash (1995) defined a geoenvironmental model of a mineral deposit as a compilation of geologic, geochemical, geophysical, hydrologic, and engineering information pertaining to the environmental behavior of geologically similar mineral deposits prior to mining, and resulting from mining, mineral processing, and smelting. Ultimately each site needs to be characterized and evaluated separately to adequately determine if the mine site is affecting the environment, but the geoenviromental mineral deposit models provide a first-cut understanding of the potential environmental effects.
The New Mexico Mines Database provides detailed information in specific fields on the mineralogy, host rock lithology, and metal association of each mine or mining district. The database also includes limited geochemical data of both solid (host rock, ore, mine wastes, tailings, stream sediments, etc.) and water (surface, ground, pit lakes, etc.) samples.
7. PIT LAKES, MINE WASTE ROCK PILES, AND TAILINGS
The New Mexico Mines Database includes a separate table listing pit lakes in the state (Table 1). Chemical data on mine waste rock piles and tailings are included in the chemistry tables and linked to the mines table. Inactive and active mills, many of which have tailings, are given a unique mine identification number. Smelter sites also are given a unique mine identification number. Specific reports (termed memos in the database) on individual mines, mills, and smelters are included as Adobe Acrobat® files (pdf) and linked to the database by mine identification number.
The New Mexico Mines Database includes information on mining districts, mines, mills, geochemistry (both solid and water), photographs (both recent and historic), and bibliography. The available data includes location, production, reserves, geologic, geochemical, historical and recent photographs, resource potential, mining, ownership, and other data.
Funding for this project was provided directly or indirectly by a variety of sources. Funding for inputting uranium data into a GIS compatible computerized database was provided in part by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (McLemore et al., 2002). The New Mexico State Land Office funded a mineral resource assessment of Luna County (McLemore et al., 2001). The USGS funded a minerals deposit and mining district map of New Mexico. The Army Corps of Engineers funded the input of data into the database for Sierra and Otero Counties. This work is part of ongoing research on the mineral resources in New Mexico at the Bureau of Geology, Peter Scholle, Director and State Geologist (now Emeritus).
Table 1. Pit lakes in New Mexico.
Mine id County District
Mine name Latitude Longitude
Commodities produced Comments
NMGR0027 Grant Steeple Rock Carlisle 32.851734 108.96451 during wet periods only
NMGR0029 Grant Santa Rita Chino 32.791667 108.06667 Cu, Au, Ag several pits with lakes
NMGR0160 Grant Burro Mountains Little Rock Cu pit lake is modeled to form once mining resumes
NMGR0084 Grant Burro Mountains Tyrone 32.643889 108.36722 Cu reclaimed older pits, active operation
NMTA0017 Taos Questa Questa Mo pit inactive, , underground operations active, generally pumped dry
NMSF0108 Santa Fe Old Placers Cunningham Hill 3519 10610 Au, Ag, W being reclaimed
NMSI0610 Sierra Hillsboro Copper Flat 32.968933 107.53326 Cu, Au, Ag, Mo
NMSF0024 Santa Fe La Bajada La Bajada 35.549139 106.20731 Ag, Cu, U, V
NMCI0018 Cibola Laguna Jackpile 35.135638 107.33177 U, V need to check if lake still present
NMCI0047 Cibola Laguna Saint Anthony Open Pit 1 35.156244 107.2943 U
NMCI0045 Cibola Laguna Saint Anthony Open Pit 2 35.163351 107.30353 U
NMSA0064 Sandoval Nacimiento Nacimiento 35.994093 106.89713 Cu
NMGR0033 Grant Fierro Hanover Cobre 32.845 108.09167 Cu, Au, Ag, Zn, Pb
- Cox, D. P., & Singer, D. A., eds., 1986, Mineral deposit models: U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 1693, 379 p.
- Du Bray, E. A., ed., 1995, Preliminary compilation of descriptive geoenvironmental mineral deposit models: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-file Report 95-831, 272 p.
- Eckstrand, O. R., ed., 1984, Canadian mineral deposit types: A geological synopsis: Geological Survey of Canada, Economic Geology Report 36, 86 p.
- File, L., & Northrop, S. A., 1966, County, township, and range locations of New Mexico’s Mining Districts: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Circular 84, 66 p.
- Guilbert, J. M., & Park, C. F., 1986, The geology of ore deposits: New York, W. H. Freeman, 985 p.
- Herring, J. R. & McLemore, V. T., 2002, Geochemistry of mine dump material from the Lake Valley mining district: U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 1644-D, p.65-75.
- Herring, J. R., Marsh, S. P., & McLemore, V. T., 1998, Major and trace element concentrations and correlations in mine dump samples from mining districts in Sierra, Socorro, and Otero counties, south-central New Mexico--Mockingbird Gap, Lava Gap, Salinas Peak, Goodfortune Creek, Bearden Canyon, and Sulfur Canyon mining districts of the northern San Andres Mountains, Sierra and Socorro County; Lake Valley mining district of Sierra County; and Tularosa and Orogrande mining districts of Otero County: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-486, 21 p.
- Hoffman, G. K., 1996, Coal resources of New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Resource Map 20, scale 1:1,000,000.
- Lindgren, W., 1933, Mineral deposits, 4th edition: New York, McGraw-Hill, 930 p.
- Lindgren, W., Graton, L. C., & Gordon, C. H., 1910, The ore deposits of New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 68, 361 p.
- McLemore, V. T., 2001, Silver and gold resources in New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Resource Map 21, 60 p.
- McLemore, V. T., & Chenoweth, W. C., 1989, Uranium resources in New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Resource Map 18, 37 p.
- McLemore, V. T., Donahue, K., Breese, M., Jackson, M. L., Arbuckle, J., and, Jones, G., 2001, Mineral-resource assessment of Luna County, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Open file Report 459, 153 p., CD-ROM.
- McLemore, V. T., Donahue, K., Krueger, C. B., Rowe, A., Ulbricht, L., Jackson, M. J., Breese, M. R., Jones, G., and Wilks, M., 2002, Database of the uranium mines, prospects, occurrences, and mills in New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Open file Report 461, CD-ROM.
- Munroe, E. A. & McLemore, V. T., 1999, Waste rock pile characterization, heterogeneity and geochemical anomalies in the Hillsboro mining district, Sierra County, New Mexico: Journal of Geochemical Exploration, v. 66, p. 389-405.
- Munroe, E. A., McLemore, V. T., & Dunbar, N. W., 2000, Mine waste rock pile geochemistry and mineralogy in southwestern New Mexico, USA; in ICARD 2000—Proceedings from the 5th international conference on acid rock drainage: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc., Littleton, Colo., p. 1327-1336.
- North, R. M., & McLemore, V. T., 1986, Silver and gold occurrences in New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Resource Map 15, 32 p., 1 map.
- North, R. M., & McLemore, V. T., 1988, A classification of the precious metal deposits of New Mexico; in Bulk mineable precious metal deposits of the western United States Symposium Volume: Geological Society of Nevada, Reno, Symposium held April 6-8, 1987, p. 625-660.
- Plumlee, G.S., & Nash, J.T. 1995, Geoenvironmental models of mineral deposits - fundamentals and application: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 95-831, p. 1-9.
- Roberts, R. G. & Sheahan, P. A., eds., 1988, Ore deposit models: Geological Society of Canada, Geoscience Canada, Reprint Series 3, 194 p.
- Sheahan, P. A. & Cherry, M. E., eds., 1993, Ore deposit models; Volume II: Geological Society of Canada, Geoscience Canada, Reprint Series 6, 154 p.
- Sillitoe, R. H., 1972, Relation of metal provinces in western America to subduction of oceanic lithosphere: Geological Society of America, Bulletin, v. 83, p. 813-818.
- Sillitoe, R. H., 1981, Ore deposits of the Cordilleran and island arc settings; in Dickinson, W. R., and Payne, W. D., eds., Relations of tectonics to ore deposits in the southern Cordillera: Arizona Geological Society Digest, v. 14, p. 49-69.