Impact of acid mine-drainage from abandoned spoils on the chemistry of an intermittent stream in the arid Southwest

Andrew J. Lampkin, Milton R. Sommerfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Drainage from an orphaned copper mine (Sheldon Mine Complex) contributes highly mineralized, acidic waters to Lynx Creek, a small intermittent, arid-climate stream. This results in localized elevation of major cations, silica, sulfate, and heavy metals (Cu, Fe, Mn, Zn), depression in pH, and complete neutralization of bicarbonate alkalinity. Levels of chloride, nitrogen and phosphorus are unaffected by mine-drainage. During stable flow, water quality of the creek improves downstream through precipitation of metal salts, dilution by less mineralized tributaries, and additional buffering from the creek channel and tributaries. Climatic aridity, via high evaporation, concentrates and precipitates metal salts during summertime periods of low flow. Creek sediments thus contain large amounts of heavy metals and phosphorus that are transported downstream in suspended particulates during spates. This reflects an annual cycle of temporary creek-bed storage followed by episodic mobilization toward Lynx Lake, a downstream reservoir. Although the influence of mine drainage is not overtly apparent in the dissolved chemistry of the Lake, high concentrations of metals and phosphorus occur in lake sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-142
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1986



  • acid mine-drainage
  • stream
  • water chemistry
  • water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science

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