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Shallow Ground Water Distribution and Movement as Influenced by Surface Coal Mining in the Eastern Powder River Basin, Wyoming


This is the third annual report on activities and results obtained from a continuing study of the effects of mining upon shallow aquifers in the vicinity of AMAX Coal Company's (AMAX'S) Belle Ayr Mine. The Belle Ayr Mine is located in Campbell County, Wyoming (Figure 1), south of Gillette, Wyoming. The study project began in 1974. Since then reports have been submitted and later published describing each year's results and relating them to earlier work (Davis, 1975; and Davis and Rechard, 1977). This report follows the same approach.

The work during calendar year 1977 was funded by the Wyoming Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) and the United States Forest Service under SEAM Cooperative Agreement No. 16-707-CA.

The original long-term objectives of this study were:

  1. to determine regional impacts of dewatering and destruction of the coal aquifer and overburden at the Belle Ayr Mine; and

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

Because of the short-term nature of the funding available for research, specific objectives were set for each year's work. Objectives funded by SEAM for the period covered by this report were;

  1. to refine estimates of changes in volume of water stored in the alluvium and the amount of recharge received during the year from precipitation and from streamflow;
  2. to be certain that a potential alluvial aquifer does not exist in deeper portions of the alluvium;
  3. to document the nature of scoria as a hydrologic unit and its relationship to coal and alluvial hydrology; and
  4. to monitor changes in water quality and water levels in the spoil as pit backfilling and reclamation proceed.

At the start of this year's field work, AMAX requested that well monitoring not be included in WRRI's field activities. For this reason objectives number one and three have only been met in part.

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