Potential Environmental Impact of the Abandoned La Bajada Uranium Mine Near Cochiti Lake, Santa Fe and Sandoval Counties, New Mexico


There has been some cocern that the abandoned La Bajada uranium mine may pose an environmental risk to Cochiti Lake. The U.S. Forest Service (USPS) is currently planning remediation of this site. This paper summarizes available environmental data concerning La Bajada mine site and evaluates potential impact of the mine on Cochiti Lake. If flood waters along the Santa Fe River were to wash large amounts of mine waste downstream into Cochiti Lake, it is likely that water quality in Cochiti Lake would be adversely impacted. However, the USPS remediation plan is adequate and, once implemented, should prevent mine waste from reaching Cochiti Lake. Before establishment of La Bajada mine, the Santa Fe River appears to have naturally eroded a significant amount of La Bajada uranium deposit and eashed it downstream. Thus, significant amount of any radioactive elements present in fluvial deposits of the Santa Fe River downstream from the mine may be naturally emplaced and not the result of mining operations at La Bajada mine. On the basis of an inspection of La Bajada mine site, acid mine drainage potential seems low. Only minor oxidation of pyrite and marcasite was observad. Therefore, because of buffering capacity of the slightly alkaline Santa Fe River waters, it is unlikely that acid mine drainage could adversely impact Cochiti Lake. Remediation should further reduce the potential for acid mine drainage. It is unlikely that ground water from La Bajada mine site could impact Cochiti Lake because Cochiti Lake typically acts as a ground-water recharge source.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Contamination; Environmental Impact; Flooding; Lake; Mine Waste; Uranium; USA, New Mexico, Bajada Mine; USA, New Mexico, Cochiti Lake

Geographic Coverage

New Mexico

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 1996 New Mexico Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Aug 1996

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