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Major and trace metal mobility during weathering of mine tailings: implications for floodplain soils

Kossoff, David and Hudson-Edwards, Karen A. and Dubbin, W.E. and Alfredsson, M.A. (2012) Major and trace metal mobility during weathering of mine tailings: implications for floodplain soils. Applied Geochemistry 27 (3), pp. 562-576. ISSN 0883-2927.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2011.11.012

Abstract

Mine tailings discharged to river systems have the potential to release significant quantities of major and trace metals to waters and soils when weathered. To provide data on the mechanisms and magnitudes of short- and long-term tailings weathering and its influence on floodplain environments, three calendar year-long column leaching experiments that incorporated tailings from Potosí, Bolivia, and soil from affected downstream floodplains, were carried out. These experiments were designed to model 20 cycles of wet and dry season conditions. Two duplicate columns modeled sub-aerial tailings weathering alone, a third modeled the effects of long-term floodplain tailings contamination and a fourth modeled that of a tailings dam spill on a previously contaminated floodplain. As far as was practical local climatic conditions were modeled. Chemical analysis of the leachate and column solids, optical mineralogy, XRD, SEM, EPMA, BCR and water-soluble chemical extractions and speciation modeling were carried out to determine the processes responsible for the leaching of Al, Ca, Cu, K, Na, Mg, Mn, Sn, Sr and Ti. Over the 20 cycles, the pH declined to a floor of ca. 2 in all columns. Calcium, Cu, Mg, Mn and Na showed significant cumulative losses of up to 100%, 60%, 30%, 95% and 40%, respectively, compared to those of Al, K, Sr, Sn and Ti, which were up to 3%, 1.5%, 5%, 1% and 0.05%, respectively. The high losses are attributed to the dissolution of relatively soluble minerals such as biotite, and oxidation of chalcopyrite and Cu-sulfosalts, while low losses are attributed to the presence of sparingly soluble minerals such as svanbergite, cassiterite and rutile. These results strongly suggest that the release of tailings to floodplains should be limited or prohibited, and that all tailings should be removed from floodplains following dam spills.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Science > Earth and Planetary Sciences
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2011 08:34
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:22
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/4465

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