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On the morning of Aug. 5, 2015, a deep pool of acidic, metal-laden water was backed up behind debris in the Level 7 adit of the Gold King Mine on the slope of Bonita Peak, roughly 10 miles north of Silverton, Colorado.
In 2001 when Aaron Brill was gearing up to open his extreme skiing mecca of Silverton Mountain, gold was selling for $250 an ounce and the upper Animas River was meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aquatic life standards. Now gold is pushing $2,000 an ounce and three of four trout species no longer can live in the upper Animas because of acid drainage from abandoned gold mines north of Silverton.