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Mine dump at the Tintic Standard Mine near Eureka, Utah

Mine dump at the Tintic Standard Mine near Eureka, Utah

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013 I took three students down to Eureka, Utah to collect our third set of soil samples for our Amercian Chemical Society grant project. Jeffrey, Sean, and Indie helped to collect samples and measure the soil pHs, as well as explore the history of the Tintic Mining District.

Mine dump with contaminated soils at the Tintic Standard Mine

Mine dump with contaminated soils at the Tintic Standard Mine

This time our first stop was at the old Tintic Standard Mine workings above Burgen and Dividend in the East Tintic District. Of all the ore bodies in the area, these on the east side of the Tintic Mountains were the last discovered and the Tintic Standard Mine was in full production by the 1920s. A reduction mill was built across Goshen Valley at the warm springs near Genola. Workers lived in a company town below the mine called Dividend. The mine produced well into the early 1940s, when it was partly shut down for the war effort, then re-opened. Work continued sporadically into the early 1970s.

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Collar and shaft at the Tintic Standard Mine. Even with a chain link fence around the hole, the loose soil at the collar could cave in and makes this shaft a dangerous place if you get too close.

There are still quite a few artifacts and ruins at the site, and care must be taken as there is a large vertical shaft with loose dirt around the collar, so you should stay well back from it. There is a large glory hole on the back hill and two water tanks further up, with the remains of a wooden ditch that brought water down to the company buildings and change room. The main portal to the mine went back from the change room, where there is still an old stove to keep the miners warm. That portal has been sealed off.

Stove in the change room at the main portal of the Tintic Standard Mine. This portal was active off and on into the 1970s.

Stove in the change room at the main portal of the Tintic Standard Mine. This portal was active off and on into the 1970s.

After exploring around, we collected some samples from the mine dump at the bottom of the hill where melting snow had created a clayey puddle. We also collected several samples along a trench that had been cut into the waste rock dump, where the soil was discolored with purplish or yellow deposits. The pH indicator needle pegged several times, showing an acidic pH of less than 3.5. It will be interesting to see what kind of lead content these samples have.

Jeffrey and Indie taking samples at the Tintic Standard Mine

Jeffrey and Indie taking samples at the Tintic Standard Mine

We then drove into Eureka and scouted around town for some additional sample sites to collect on our final trip on Thursday, as well as to look around the mining museum, old City Hall building with its jail in back, and the cemetery. I showed the students how miners worked the air-driven hammers and how water was sprayed into the holes through the center of the drill steel. We looked at the skips or man cages, the water removal buckets, and the mucker machine out front. We walked around Main Street, which was very quiet for a Tuesday afternoon. Only a few cars were driving through.

David Black by City Hall on Main Street in Eureka, Utah.

David Black by City Hall on Main Street in Eureka, Utah.

Water chute, tanks, and old foundation at the Tintic Standard Mine

Water chute, tanks, and old foundation at the Tintic Standard Mine

We drove out through the west end of town on Highway 6 and took a detour through the cemetery, recording with the Flip cameras as we went.  We explored around the town of Mammoth and collected samples in a wash at the mouth of Mammoth Canyon. We then went on around to the Swansea mine dumps at Silver City to continue collecting samples.

Ruins of the old power plant in Eureka. Heavy machinery moving through town has contributed to the deterioration of historic buildings like this one.

Ruins of the old power plant in Eureka. Heavy machinery moving through town has contributed to the deterioration of historic buildings like this one.

Since last week, the snow has mostly melted and the ground dried out to where we could walk on it in most places without leaving muddy footprints. We sampled in several washes running off the main dump and in soils between the washes where some scrub brush survives. The main wash feeding off of the dump had several layers of brightly colored soils, ranging from reds to yellows to even a shade of green.

Mammoth Mine, headframe, and glory hole. This was the deepest mine in the district, with the richest concentration of silver and gold ore.

Mammoth Mine, headframe, and glory hole. This was the deepest mine in the district, with the richest concentration of silver and gold ore.

I can see we need to do more studying here, to see how much lead and acidic runoff continue down these washes into the valley beyond. The runoff water has left a red stain on the asphalt of the road over a hundred yards from the main dump. The soil on and near the dump itself and in the bottom of the washes is devoid of life. Even though the last time this mine waste was dug up was the 1980s, when the leach pile nearby was created, no plant life has yet to colonize the contaminated soils in about 30 years.

Sean and Indie at the Silver City mine dump.

Sean and Indie at the Silver City mine dump.

David Black taking pH readings in the middle wash draining the mine dump at Silver City.

David Black taking pH readings in the middle wash draining the mine dump at Silver City.

All told we had an enjoyable and low-key trip, and even though it was overcast the day was fairly warm. We had now collected all the samples we needed outside the remediated zone.

Contaminated soils in the wash draining the Silver City mine dump.

Contaminated soils in the wash draining the Silver City mine dump.

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For the last week, I’ve been busy preparing for my classes at Walden School, including inventorying the science lab room (which is also my classroom) and planning out my course schedules. I’ll be teaching two sections of Chemistry, one of Astronomy, one of Computer Technology (a basic computer literacy course required in Utah), a section of Media Design, and a section of Video Production. This is, for me, a perfect schedule. In the meantime I’ve also been preparing a series of maps and 3D images of the Tintic Mining District, focusing on the ore deposits and the various mines located there. I’ve also prepared the script for this section of the video, which I have pasted below:

Mines in the East Tintic Mts

MInes and Roads in the East Tintic Mtns.

Tintic Geology

To understand how the ore bodies in the Tintic District were deposited, we have to start about 800 million years ago in the Precambrian Period when the western portion of the North American craton rifted away from the rest of the continent along a line where the Wasatch Front now lies – this Wasatch Line has been an important hinge line in Utah’s geology ever since. For the next 600 million years, a sequence of ocean sediments including dolomite, limestone, shale, and sandstone were deposited off the coast in the geosyncline that would become western Utah. Beginning 150 million years ago, Nevada and then western Utah were uplifted as the Farallon tectonic plate was pushed under North America. Like a throw rug being wrinkled up as it’s pushed over a hardwood floor, western Utah was folded by thrust faults into a large mountain range during the Sevier orogeny about 70 million years ago. This thrusting continued across eastern Utah and into Colorado and Wyoming during the Laramide orogeny, building up the Uintah and Rocky Mountains.

East Tintic Mines

Mines in the eastern portion of the Tintic Mining District

Then, about 50 million years ago, the Farallon plate began to collapse from underneath the continent. As it peeled away, a wave of volcanism moved from east to west across Colorado and Utah. Intrusive laccoliths rose to the surface, bulging up the LaSal and Henry Mountains in eastern Utah and forming explosive calderas in several places in western Utah. About 35 million years ago, a series of calderas formed in the area that would become the Tintic Mountains. A large andesitic volcano rose up from eruptions of ash and tuft.

Tintic Standard ore samples

Ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine, eastern district.

About 31.5 million years ago, the volcano collapsed as the intrusive magma began to cool. Mineral rich fluids were injected into the surrounding limestone, quartzite, and dolomite as replacement beds. The hot magma caused the carbonate rocks to decompose; for example, limestone turns into lime or calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas when heated. This left large cavities that then filled up with the mineral-laden magmas. These deposits are called stopes, such as the famous Oklahoma stope of the Chief Consolidated mine. The carbon dioxide released from the decomposing limestone and dolomite in turn dissolved into the hot magma, making it a kind of lava champagne, and reacting with it to form various exotic minerals, some of which are found nowhere else.

More Tintic ore samples

More ore samples from the Tintic District

The primary ore-bearing minerals in the Tintic District are enargite, tetrahedrite, galena, sphalerite, pyrite, marcasite, and native gold, silver, and copper. But many more minerals are present, including unusual minerals that blend copper, silver, tellurium, arsenic, sulfur, carbonates, hydrodixes, etc. At the Centennial Eureka mine, over 85 different minerals have been identified, ranging from common pyrite, malachite, and azurite to minerals found only here. It is the type locality (where the mineral was first identified) for leisingite, frankhawthorneite, jensenite, juabite, utahite, and eurekadumpite. Other rare minerals include xocomecatlite, carmenite, adamite, duftite, and mcalpineite.

These mineral deposits occurred around the edges of the caldera and formed the five large ore zones of the main Tintic District. The Gemini Ore Zone runs to the west of Eureka south to the north edge of Mammoth Gulch. The Gemini, the Bullion Beck and Champion, the Eureka Hill, and the Centennial Eureka mines (known collectively as the Big Four) are located on this zone.

The Chief-Mammoth Ore Zone begins under the center of Eureka and extends due south across the mountain to the east end of Mammoth Gulch. The Chief Consolidated mine is located on the richest ore body, which is right under the center of Eureka city; up the hill is the Eagle and Blue Bell mine, named for the beautiful deposits of azurite found inside. Further south over the top of Eureka Peak lie the Grand Central, Mammoth, Apex, and Gold Chain mines that are also part of this deposit.

Ore zones in the Tintic District

Ore Zones and Major Mines of the Tintic Mining District

The Plutus Zone branches off of the Chief-Mammoth Zone high up in the Tintic Mountains. The Godiva Zone starts just east of Eureka and runs southeast in a curve where it joins the Iron Blossom Zone, which continues in a curve south and then southwest. Some mines in these zones include the Godiva, May Day, Humbug, Beck Tunnel, Sioux, and Iron Blossom mines.

In the eastern section of the Tintic District, several zones of minerals were deposited and were among the last to be discovered because they are overlain by 400 feet of igneous rock. These bodies include the Burgin ore body, the Tintic Standard, and the North Lily bodies. Other bodies are located at the Apex and Trixie mines.

In the southern section of the Tintic District, the large replacement bodies give way to smaller fissure veins that are only two feet wide on average but can be up to 4000 feet long. Here, the mineral-bearing magma was injected into cracks and fault lines already existing in the host rocks. The Dragon mine is the only true open pit mine in the area; it sits on top of a network of fissure veins at the south end of the Iron Blossom Zone. Other mines in the area include the Swansea and Sunbeam mines at Silver City, the Tesora and Treasure Hill mines at Ruby Gulch, and the Showers mine at Diamond Gulch.

More ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine

More ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine

The final chapter in the area’s geomorphology began about 17 million years ago when normal faulting created the Basin and Range province, lifting up blocks to form the mountain ranges of Utah and Nevada, including the East Tintic Mountains. Other blocks sank to form the valleys, such as the Tintic Valley. Erosion has exposed the ore bodies in many places, including the outcropping that George Rust stumbled over in 1869. It was to become the Sunbeam Mine.

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