Reports & Background

Reports & Background

The Silverton Caldera is highly mineralized, and acid rock drainage and poor water quality were prevalent long before the advent of mining. The area has been the focus of significant research on its geology and mineralization to better understand how metals loading has adversely affected the Animas River and aquatic life.

The reports below provide substantial research on a variety of topics pertaining to the Silverton Caldera, SGC’s reclamation activities, and water quality in the Animas River.


An expert analysis of EPA’s response to the Gold King Mine blowout.
A summary of the report "SGC Mining and Reclamation Activities and Metals Loading in the Animas River."

Researched and written by an expert in geochemistry, this report provides significant detail into the geology and natural conditions of the Silverton Caldera, the area’s mining history, and SGC’s mining and reclamation activities. It concludes that SGC’s mining and reclamation activities each substantially reduced metals loading in the Animas River from what would have otherwise been the case.

As part of its reclamation and remediation plan, SGC installed concrete bulkheads in the Bonita Peak area, which are stable and performing as designed. This report provides significant detail on the engineered concrete bulkheads SGC installed to isolate the interior workings of the mine and cause the water table to return toward natural levels.

The Bonita Peak area, located in the Silverton Caldera, and its complex geology and mineralization, has been studied extensively, with sufficient research and knowledge in place to support intelligent decision-making to improve water quality and reduce metals loading in the Animas River. Based on evidence-based research, the remaining significant source of metals loading in the Animas River is due to point sources in the Cement Creek drainage, and these flows should be targeted for treatment to substantially reduce metals loading in the Animas. The report concludes that further study is not required to make a decision on next steps to improve water quality in the Animas River.

With the goal of treating water in Cement Creek to improve water quality in the Animas River, this report compares two options: passive treatment or active treatment. The strong conclusion is that an active treatment plant will provide the greatest certainty of immediate beneficial results and will give flexibility for the future. There are many reasons why passive treatment is not the solution, including geography, weather, and passive treatment’s unproven effectiveness in this specific setting.

The report provides a thorough analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions around the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015 and how in September 2016, the “Bonita Peak Mining District” – a huge and diverse geographical area covering more than 100,000 acres – was added to the Superfund listing. The report also suggests a path forward.