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TitleInfluence of hardpan layers on arsenic mobility in historical gold mine tailings
AuthorDeSisto, S L; Jamieson, H E; Parsons, M B
SourceApplied Geochemistry vol. 26, 2011 p. 2004-2018,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20110003
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
ProvinceNova Scotia
Lat/Long WENS-64.0000 -63.5000 44.7500 44.5000
Subjectsgeochemistry; environmental geology; tailings; tailings analyses; tailings geochemistry; heavy metals contamination; arsenic; mines; water geochemistry; geochemical analyses; Montague Gold Mine
Illustrationslocation maps; plots; tables; photographs
ProgramProgram management and Transition Activities, Environmental Geoscience
AbstractHardpans, or cemented layers, form by precipitation and cementation of secondary minerals in mine tailings and may act as both physical and chemical barriers. Precipitation of secondary minerals during weathering of tailings can sequester metal(loid)s, thereby limiting their release to the environment. At Montague Gold Mines in Nova Scotia, tailings are partially cemented by the Fe arsenate mineral scorodite (FeAsO4\'022H2O). Previous studies have shown that the formation of scorodite can effectively limit aqueous As concentrations due to its relatively low solubility (<1 mg/L at pH 3–4) and high As content (43–52 wt.% As2O5, this study). Co-existing waters and solids were sampled at Montague Gold Mines to identify present-day field conditions influencing scorodite precipitation and dissolution, and to better understand the mineralogical and chemical relationship between hardpan and tailings. In addition to scorodite, hardpan cements were found to include amorphous Fe arsenate and Fe oxyhydroxide. Nearly all hardpan is associated with historical arsenopyrite-bearing concentrate which provides a source of acidity, As5+ and Fe3+ for secondary mineral precipitation. Pore waters sampled from the hardpan have pH values ranging from 2.43 to 7.06. Waters with the lowest pH values also have the highest As concentrations (up to 35.8 mg/L) and are associated with the most extensive hardpan and greatest amount of weathered sulfide. Samples from areas with discontinuous hardpan and less sulfide have near-neutral pH and lower As concentrations. Detailed petrographic observations indicate that the identity and stability of As-bearing secondary minerals depends on the continued availability of sulfide concentrate. The results of this study are being used to develop remediation strategies for highly weathered, hardpan-bearing tailings that consider the stability of both primary and secondary minerals under various cover scenarios.