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Old mines continue to impact Arkansas River fishing, water quality
From the Summit Daily News:
Cresting Fremont Pass, Climax Mine is perched on one side of Highway 91, and the start of the Arkansas River begins on the other. It starts as a trickle, and as it tumbles through the valley into Leadville, it picks up speed and volume.
South of Leadville, it continues to grow until it becomes the river that nourishes the rafting industry from Buena Vista to Cañon City and feeds agriculture and municipal interests downstream into southeastern Colorado.
Part of that river was mostly lifeless at one point, due to mining activity, but this summer, that could begin to change when a project spearheaded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife gets underway.
“The Leadville Mining District (California Gulch) has hundreds of abandoned mines, many miles of underground tunnels and shafts, large waste rock and tailings deposits and numerous processing facilities (some 75 mills and 44 smelters). Waste products, including mill tailings, slag and dust were frequently placed in piles or tailings ponds; often in or adjacent to flood plain locations,” the project description states. “Over 2,000 waste rock piles cover approximately 627 acres. Many of these exposed dumps remain as metal sources to the Arkansas River and other Basin tributaries.”
Blow-outs of mine drainage tunnels, usually during heavy spring runoff, transport more minerals into the river's reach.
The river feeds downstream resources, and high metal content can impact the animals and plants dependent on the water, including agricultural uses.