Share this on Facebook
download .zip with all pictures
So, I grew up about 10 miles from the old Iron Mountain Mine, an abandoned copper mine, and superfund clean up site. Copper mines mine what are known as sulfide minerals, essentially minerals with metal and sulfur atoms in them, like Chalcopyrite, pyrite, and galena)The hills around the mine were devoid of major trees – the soil had been polluted by the smelting smoke/exhaust (smelting occurred in the early 1900’s), so mostly only “digger” pine trees and manzanita bushes grew out there.
Rain used to fall on the mountain, flow *through* the Iron Mountain Mine, and come out near the bottom, loaded with minerals and incredibly acidic, at a pH of less than zero (so low, they had to re-define parts of the scale). This happened due to a bacteria in the mine that ate iron and it’s waste was H+ in some way. The ultra low pH caused major fish kills in the river.
the Green/blue stuff is Azurite and Malachite, a copper-carbonate mineral that can form after the sulfide minerals break down in water. The yellow stuff is likely elemental sulfur. I bet this place really smelled. Check out how rusted and dilapidated the equipment is. You couldn’t pay me enough to go in there, super dangerous!
The guys in this photo are wearing what we would call in California “Level C” hazmat gear – they are not in an encapuslated suit, are covered in splash protection, and are not wearing a respirator. “Level B” has a respirator or scba, and “Level A” is fully encapsulated, and incredibly difficult to move around in.
Odds are, the pH in this mine isn’t like Iron Mountain, and isn’t as low/dangerous, or they would not have gotten as far in.