PATAGONIA, AZ (TucsonNewsNow) - Nearly 70 years since its closure, the Lead Queen Mine is leaking acidic and toxic sludge into the nearby environment.
During an environmental impact monitoring visit by the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (PARA) in March, the group witnessed noticeable pools of "orange sludge" and "iced tea-colored liquid" both in front and inside the abandoned mine.
Reports from the non-profit group also note that the mouth of the mine is open, with nothing in place to prevent further leaks into the surrounding areas and waterways.
"As we watch Arizona Mining Inc. and other companies expand their industrialized mineral exploration in the Patagonia Mountains, the Lead Queen mine provides a timely example of the damage done by mining, long after the companies are gone," said Julie Olbrantz, PARA's Coordinator in a news release.
According to the citizen watchdog organization, the acid mine drainage and contaminants from the mine would seep into Sonoita Creek and then flow into Patagonia Lake, both popular places for wildlife gatherings and human recreational activity.
PARA is now advocating for the cleanup and scrubbing of the Lead Queen site and has alerted the Coronado National Forest of the issue.
Due to a previous incident in October of 2014, when a leaking substance from the mine tested for a pH level of 2 indicating high acidity, the Coronado National Forest installed structures to seal off the mine.
However, these structures were overwhelmed by heavy rains in August of 2016 and forced the Forest Service to make a second attempt at cleanup in addition to using $400,000 of taxpayer funds.
The following is a response from the U.S. Forest Service on the 'sludge' leaking from the mine: