In April 2001, the U.S. Geological Survey and the New Mexico Environment Department began a cooperative study to infer the pre-mining ground-water chemistry at the Molycorp molybdenum mine site in the Red River Valley of north- central New Mexico. This report is one in a series of reports that can be used to determine pre-mining ground-water conditions at the mine site.
Weathering of hydrothermally altered bedrock in the study area has resulted in steep, highly erosive, and sparsely vegetated scar areas that are clearly visible from the ground and in aerial photographs. Runoff from intense summer rainfall over tributary drainages containing scar areas can transport large quantities of sediment and form debris fans where these tributaries join the Red River.
Twenty-nine observation wells were installed in three phases as part of this study in the Red River Valley and tributary drainages. Eight Phase II observation wells were drilled using an air-rotary/hammer rig. Three Phase II and 10 phase III small-diameter wells were installed using a direct-push rig. Lithologic logs were recorded for all eight Phase II drilled wells. Borehole geophysical logging (including natural gamma, induction, and single-detector neutron) was conducted in three Phase II wells.
Aquifer tests conducted during 2003 to estimate the hydraulic properties of debris-flow and Red River alluvial deposits in and near Straight Creek included a flow-meter survey, slug tests, and a pumping test. Results of a flow-meter survey in well SC-7A indicated that about 77 percent of the water entered the well from a 10-foot-thick zone near the top of the screened interval and about 23 percent of the water entered the well from a 15-foot-thick zone near the bottom of the screened interval. Slug tests, performed in 11 wells during June 3-5, 2003, indicated that the mean and median estimated hydraulic conductivities for debris-flow deposits were 15.25 and 15.35 feet per day, respectively, for bedrock were 0.12 and 0.08 feet per day, respectively, and for mixed debris flow and Red River alluvium were 73-207 (estimated range) and 80 feet per day. In general, bedrock has the smallest hydraulic conductivity, debris-flow material has the next highest hydraulic conductivity, and mixed debris flow and Red River alluvium has the largest hydraulic conductivity. A pumping test conducted December 3-4, 2003, using well AWWT-1 as the pumped well, and wells AWWT-2, SC-5A, SC-5B, SC-7A, and SC-8A as observation wells, indicated estimated transmissivity of 12,000 to 34,000 feet squared per day and estimated hydraulic conductivity of 230 to 340 feet per day.
Water-level measurements in wells SC-6A, SC-7A, SC-8A, and the Hottentot, Hansen, and La Bobita wells show that water levels typically rose rapidly during melting of the winter snowpack in the springtime and then generally declined during the rest of the year. The water-level rise in response to spring snowmelt occurred earlier and was smaller at larger distances from the Red River. Differences between the stage in the Red River and water levels in wells SC-8A and SC-9A, and the absence of water in well SC-9A at the time of well completion, indicate that the Red River has a poor hydraulic connection to the underlying ground-water system and the surface-water system is perched above the ground-water system at this site. Water levels in Phase III wells indicate that the Red River and the shallow ground-water system are connected hydraulically from near wells 4-1D and 4-1S downstream to near wells 2-1 and 2-2 but are poorly connected near the La Bobita well and well 1.