18 December 2020

A Day in the Carlotta Mine

Written by: Kenny Orihuela

When I started the internship in late September, I was looking forward to learning more about hydrology in a new state. I had some experience in hydrology work in my undergrad days, mostly learning about how rivers modify the landscape.


Almost three months in, I didn’t realize the extent of hydrological fieldwork. I thought that the discipline was limited to measuring rivers and streams. Now that I have more fieldwork under my belt, the extent of hydrology includes many disciplines including geology, geomorphology, biology, and geographic information systems.

One such field day that looks at different disciplines was a trip to the Carlotta Mine near Globe, AZ. The mine is situated on the southeast corner of the Tonto NF, about two hours from the Phoenix Supervisor’s office. Upon reaching the Globe District Office, I met with Chad (the geologist for the Globe District of the Tonto) and Adam, the District Ranger. We went into the mine and met with Myron, the mine’s environmental advisor.

Globe, AZ is home to a number of mines like the Carlotta Mine. All of the mines produce copper that line our cable wires and electronics. The Carlotta Mine is one such mine that cooperates very well with the Tonto National Forest in minimizing its environmental impact. Chad, Adam and Myron are overseeing a long-term project of the eventual closure of the mine; Myron led us on a tour of the mine and to see how areas like the tailings and open pit quarry will be remediated with natural vegetation and water filtration. Myron showed us GIS maps and reports to show the vision of the closure and the future of the land.

Seeing a mine for the first time was a really cool experience for me. Coming from a geologist background, it’s a real treat to see applied geology in action! I also saw the effects the mine has on the hydrology of the area. For example, continued drought conditions in the area deplete the creeks and groundwater, which means the water used for the mine may have to be imported. Imported water costs the mine more money and stresses out the nearby wildlife from a consistent water supply.

I’m grateful that I got to view how a mine works: I have a bigger respect for the work it takes to produce valuable metals like copper. However, the effects of the mine can be problematic for the ecosystem. When working together, the mining company and Forest Service can come to agreements on how to best mitigate environmental risks.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Anchorage Regional Office

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