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Results of a Hydrological Investigation of AMAX's Belle Ayr Mine and Vicinity Near Gillette, Wyoming


This is a progress report describing the results obtained to date from a study of the effects of strip mining upon shallow aquifers in the Eastern Powder River Basin. The study is an outgrowth of a proposal (Huntoon and Rechard, 1974) submitted by the Wyoming Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) to the United States Forest Service under SEAM Coop Agreement 16-U20-CA. Because of the availability of data from a previous study conducted by WRRI for AMAX Coal Company at their Belle Ayr Mine south of Gillette, Wyoming, the mine and the region around it are the primary focus of this study. Location of the study area is shown in Figure 1.

It is intended that this study be continued throughout the period of strip mining at Belle Ayr Mine in order to determine long-term hydrologic effects of the mining operation. This report is to be the first of a series of annual reports. Funding for the project by the U.S. Forest Service is on a year-by-year basis.

The short-term objectives of the study during 1974 as described in the original proposal were to:

  1. Outline the principal hydraulic properties of the shallow aquifers in the immediate vicinity of AMAX'S Belle Ayr Mine. This included identification of the principal shallow aquifers, delineation of the potentiometric surface formed by waters within the coal seam, and determination of gross hydrologic parameters of the coal seam aquifer.

  2. Identify regional potentiometric trends and ground water flow patterns.

  3. Project impact of mine development on water levels in the vicinity of the mine.

Long-term objectives to be attained by the completion of mining and reclamation activity are to:

  1. Determine regional impacts of dewatering and destruction of the coal aquifer and overburden at the Belle Ayr South Mine.

  2. Postulate the feasibility of recharging the ground water system through diversion of surface flows into abandoned mine sites.

Field data described herein were collected by Michael Penz, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming and an employee of WRRI. The field work was supervised by Paul A. Rechard, Director, and Peter W. Huntoon, Hydrogeologist of the Wyoming WRRI. A portion of the data used in this report is from a previous study (Rechard et al., 1974).

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