Environmental Geology

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 35–57 | Cite as

Weathering of sulfidic shale and copper mine waste: secondary minerals and metal cycling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, and North Carolina, USA

  • Jane M. Hammarstrom
  • Robert R. SealII
  • Allen L. Meier
  • John C. Jackson
Original Article


Metal cycling via physical and chemical weathering of discrete sources (copper mines) and regional (non-point) sources (sulfide-rich shale) is evaluated by examining the mineralogy and chemistry of weathering products in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, and North Carolina, USA. The elements in copper mine waste, secondary minerals, stream sediments, and waters that are most likely to have negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems are aluminum, copper, zinc, and arsenic because these elements locally exceed toxicity guidelines for surface waters or for stream sediments. Acid-mine drainage has not developed in streams draining inactive copper mines. Acid-rock drainage and chemical weathering processes that accompany debris flows or human disturbances of sulfidic rocks are comparable to processes that develop acid-mine drainage elsewhere. Despite the high rainfall in the mountain range, sheltered areas and intermittent dry spells provide local venues for development of secondary weathering products that can impact aquatic ecosystems.


Secondary minerals Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee and North Carolina Acid drainage 



The authors thank the National Park Service for permission to sample within Great Smoky Mountains National Park and for support of this study, especially Carroll Schell. Rick Verner and Dale Raxter of the National Park Service greatly facilitated field work. USGS colleagues Art Schultz, Scott Southworth, and Geoff Plumlee, and Professor Don Byerly of the University if Tennessee pointed out key locations and provided background information. Dave Haffner, John Wormington, Peggie Wormington, and Ryan Barden assisted in the field and laboratory. This paper benefited from peer reviews by USGS colleagues Scott Southworth and Bill Cannon.

Supplementary material

Sample key and associated water data for ochres (PDF 39 KB)

table1.pdf (39 kb)
Table ESM 1

Stream sediment sample locations (PDF 38 KB)

table2.pdf (37 kb)
Table ESM 2

Stream sediment chemistry (PDF 43 KB)

table3.pdf (42 kb)
Table ESM 3

Water sample data for stream sediment sample sites (PDF 25 KB)

table4.pdf (24 kb)
Table ESM 4


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane M. Hammarstrom
    • 1
  • Robert R. SealII
    • 1
  • Allen L. Meier
    • 2
  • John C. Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.US Geological SurveyRestonUSA
  2. 2.US Geological SurveyDenverUSA

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