Applied Geochemistry (v.57, #C)
Applied Geochemistry Special Issue on Environmental geochemistry of modern mining by Robert R. Seal; D. Kirk Nordstrom (1-2).
Hydrogeochemistry and microbiology of mine drainage: An update by D. Kirk Nordstrom; David W. Blowes; Carol J. Ptacek (3-16).
The extraction of mineral resources requires access through underground workings, or open pit operations, or through drillholes for solution mining. Additionally, mineral processing can generate large quantities of waste, including mill tailings, waste rock and refinery wastes, heap leach pads, and slag. Thus, through mining and mineral processing activities, large surface areas of sulfide minerals can be exposed to oxygen, water, and microbes, resulting in accelerated oxidation of sulfide and other minerals and the potential for the generation of low-quality drainage. The oxidation of sulfide minerals in mine wastes is accelerated by microbial catalysis of the oxidation of aqueous ferrous iron and sulfide. These reactions, particularly when combined with evaporation, can lead to extremely acidic drainage and very high concentrations of dissolved constituents. Although acid mine drainage is the most prevalent and damaging environmental concern associated with mining activities, generation of saline, basic and neutral drainage containing elevated concentrations of dissolved metals, non-metals, and metalloids has recently been recognized as a potential environmental concern. Acid neutralization reactions through the dissolution of carbonate, hydroxide, and silicate minerals and formation of secondary aluminum and ferric hydroxide phases can moderate the effects of acid generation and enhance the formation of secondary hydrated iron and aluminum minerals which may lessen the concentration of dissolved metals. Numerical models provide powerful tools for assessing impacts of these reactions on water quality.
Baseline and premining geochemical characterization of mined sites by D. Kirk Nordstrom (17-34).
A rational goal for environmental restoration of new, active, or inactive mine sites would be ‘natural background’ or the environmental conditions that existed before any mining activities or other related anthropogenic activities. In a strictly technical sense, there is no such thing as natural background (or entirely non-anthropogenic) existing today because there is no part of the planet earth that has not had at least some chemical disturbance from anthropogenic activities. Hence, the terms ‘baseline’ and ‘pre-mining’ are preferred to describe these conditions. Baseline conditions are those that existed at the time of the characterization which could be pre-mining, during mining, or post-mining. Protocols for geochemically characterizing pre-mining conditions are not well-documented for sites already mined but there are two approaches that seem most direct and least ambiguous. One is characterization of analog sites along with judicious application of geochemical modeling. The other is reactive-transport modeling (based on careful synoptic sampling with tracer-injection) and subtracting inputs from known mining and mineral processing. Several examples of acidic drainage are described from around the world documenting the range of water compositions produced from pyrite oxidation in the absence of mining. These analog sites provide insight to the processes forming mineralized waters in areas untouched by mining. Natural analog water-chemistry data is compared with the higher metal concentrations, metal fluxes, and weathering rates found in mined areas in the few places where comparisons are possible. The differences are generally 1–3 orders of magnitude higher for acid mine drainage.
Diel cycling of trace elements in streams draining mineralized areas—A review by Christopher H. Gammons; David A. Nimick; Stephen R. Parker (35-44).
Many trace elements exhibit persistent diel, or 24-h, concentration cycles in streams draining mineralized areas. These cycles can be caused by various physical and biogeochemical mechanisms including streamflow variation, photosynthesis and respiration, as well as reactions involving photochemistry, adsorption and desorption, mineral precipitation and dissolution, and plant assimilation. Iron is the primary trace element that exhibits diel cycling in acidic streams. In contrast, many cationic and anionic trace elements exhibit diel cycling in near-neutral and alkaline streams. Maximum reported changes in concentration for these diel cycles have been as much as a factor of 10 (988% change in Zn concentration over a 24-h period). Thus, monitoring and scientific studies must account for diel trace-element cycling to ensure that water-quality data collected in streams appropriately represent the conditions intended to be studied.
Arsenic mobility in mildly alkaline drainage from an orogenic lode gold deposit, Bralorne mine, British Columbia by Alexandre J. Desbarats; M.B. Parsons; J.B. Percival (45-54).
The historical (1932–1971) Bralorne mine produced over 87 million grams of Au from an archetypal orogenic lode gold deposit in southwest British Columbia. High concentrations of As in mine drainage, however, represent an on-going environmental concern prompting a detailed study of effluent chemistry. The discharge rate at the mine portal was monitored continuously over a fourteen-month period during which effluent samples were collected on a quasi-weekly basis. Water samples were also collected on synoptic surveys of the adit between the portal and the main source of flow in the flooded workings. Total concentrations of As in the mildly alkaline (pH = 8.7) portal drainage average 3034 μg/L whereas at the source they average 5898 μg/L. As emergent waters from the flooded workings flow toward the portal, their dissolved oxygen content and pH increase from 0 to 10 mg/L and from 7.7 to 9, respectively. Near the emergence point, dissolved Fe precipitates rapidly, sorbing both As(III) and As(V). With increasing distance from the emergence point, dissolved As(III) concentrations drop to detection limits through sorption on hydrous ferric oxide and through oxidation to As(V). Concentrations of dissolved As(V), on the other hand, increase and stabilize, reflecting lower sorption at higher pH and the lack of available sorbent. Nonetheless, based on synoptic surveys, approximately 35% of the source As load is sequestered in the adit resulting in As sediment concentrations averaging 8.5 wt%. The remaining average As load of 1.34 kg/d is discharged from the portal. Partitioning of As(V) between dissolved and particulate phases in portal effluent is characterized by a sorption density of 0.37 mol As (mol Fe)−1 and by a distribution coefficient (Kd ) of 130 L/g HFO. The relatively high sorption density may reflect co-precipitation of As with Fe oxyhydroxides rather than a purely adsorption-controlled process. Results of this study show that the As self-mitigating capacity of drainage from orogenic lode gold deposits may be poor in high-pH and Fe-limited settings.
Using biotic ligand models to predict metal toxicity in mineralized systems by Kathleen S. Smith; Laurie S. Balistrieri; Andrew S. Todd (55-72).
The biotic ligand model (BLM) is a numerical approach that couples chemical speciation calculations with toxicological information to predict the toxicity of aquatic metals. This approach was proposed as an alternative to expensive toxicological testing, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency incorporated the BLM into the 2007 revised aquatic life ambient freshwater quality criteria for Cu. Research BLMs for Ag, Ni, Pb, and Zn are also available, and many other BLMs are under development. Current BLMs are limited to ‘one metal, one organism’ considerations. Although the BLM generally is an improvement over previous approaches to determining water quality criteria, there are several challenges in implementing the BLM, particularly at mined and mineralized sites. These challenges include: (1) historically incomplete datasets for BLM input parameters, especially dissolved organic carbon (DOC), (2) several concerns about DOC, such as DOC fractionation in Fe- and Al-rich systems and differences in DOC quality that result in variations in metal-binding affinities, (3) water-quality parameters and resulting metal-toxicity predictions that are temporally and spatially dependent, (4) additional influences on metal bioavailability, such as multiple metal toxicity, dietary metal toxicity, and competition among organisms or metals, (5) potential importance of metal interactions with solid or gas phases and/or kinetically controlled reactions, and (6) tolerance to metal toxicity observed for aquatic organisms living in areas with elevated metal concentrations.
Characterizing toxicity of metal-contaminated sediments from mining areas by John M. Besser; William G. Brumbaugh; Christopher G. Ingersoll (73-84).
This paper reviews methods for testing the toxicity of metals associated with freshwater sediments, linking toxic effects with metal exposure and bioavailability, and developing sediment quality guidelines. The most broadly applicable approach for characterizing metal toxicity is whole-sediment toxicity testing, which attempts to simulate natural exposure conditions in the laboratory. Standard methods for whole-sediment testing can be adapted to test a wide variety of taxa. Chronic sediment tests that characterize effects on multiple endpoints (e.g., survival, growth, and reproduction) can be highly sensitive indicators of adverse effects on resident invertebrate taxa. Methods for testing of aqueous phases (pore water, overlying water, or elutriates) are used less frequently. Analysis of sediment toxicity data focuses on statistical comparisons between responses in sediments from the study area and responses in one or more uncontaminated reference sediments. For large or complex study areas, a greater number of reference sediments is recommended to reliably define the normal range of responses in uncontaminated sediments – the ‘reference envelope’. Data on metal concentrations and effects on test organisms across a gradient of contamination may allow development of concentration-response models, which estimate metal concentrations associated with specified levels of toxic effects (e.g. 20% effect concentration or EC20). Comparisons of toxic effects in laboratory tests with measures of impacts on resident benthic invertebrate communities can help document causal relationships between metal contamination and biological effects. Total or total-recoverable metal concentrations in sediments are the most common measure of metal contamination in sediments, but metal concentrations in labile sediment fractions (e.g., determined as part of selective sediment extraction protocols) may better represent metal bioavailability. Metals released by the weak-acid extraction of acid-volatile sulfide (AVS), termed simultaneously-extracted metals (SEM), are widely used to estimate the ‘potentially-bioavailable’ fraction of metals that is not bound to sulfides (i.e., SEM-AVS). Metal concentrations in pore water are widely considered to be direct measures of metal bioavailability, and predictions of toxicity based on pore-water metal concentrations may be further improved by modeling interactions of metals with other pore-water constituents using Biotic Ligand Models. Data from sediment toxicity tests and metal analyses has provided the basis for development of sediment quality guidelines, which estimate thresholds for toxicity of metals in sediments. Empirical guidelines such as Probable Effects Concentrations or (PECs) are based on associations between sediment metal concentrations and occurrence of toxic effects in large datasets. PECs do not model bioavailable metals, but they can be used to estimate the toxicity of metal mixtures using by calculation of probable effect quotients (PEQ = sediment metal concentration/PEC). In contrast, mechanistic guidelines, such as Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks (ESBs) attempt to predict both bioavailability and mixture toxicity. Application of these simple bioavailability models requires more extensive chemical characterization of sediments or pore water, compared to empirical guidelines, but may provide more reliable estimates of metal toxicity across a wide range of sediment types.
Mineralogical characterization of mine waste by Heather E. Jamieson; Stephen R. Walker; Michael B. Parsons (85-105).
The application of mineralogical characterization to mine waste has the potential to improve risk assessment, guide appropriate mine planning for planned and active mines and optimize remediation design at closed or abandoned mines. Characterization of minerals, especially sulphide and carbonate phases, is particularly important for predicting the potential for acidic drainage and metal(loid) leaching. Another valuable outcome from mineralogical studies of mine waste is an understanding of the stability of reactive and metal(loid)-bearing minerals under various redox conditions. This paper reviews analytical methods that have been used to study mine waste mineralogy, including conventional methods such as X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy, and advanced methods such as synchrotron-based microanalysis and automated mineralogy. We recommend direct collaboration between researchers and mining companies to choose the optimal mineralogical techniques to solve complex problems, to co-publish the results, and to ensure that mineralogical knowledge is used to inform mine waste management at all stages of the mining life cycle. A case study of arsenic-bearing gold mine tailings from Nova Scotia is presented to demonstrate the application of mineralogical techniques to improve human health risk assessment and the long-term management of historical mine wastes.
Preoperational assessment of solute release from waste rock at proposed mining operations by Kim A. Lapakko (106-124).
Environmental assessments are conducted prior to mineral development at proposed mining operations. Among the objectives of these assessments is prediction of solute release from mine wastes projected to be generated by the proposed mining and associated operations. This paper provides guidance to those engaged in these assessments and, in more detail, provides insights on solid-phase characterization and application of kinetic test results for predicting solute release from waste rock. The logic guiding the process is consistent with general model construction practices and recent publications. Baseline conditions at the proposed site are determined and a detailed operational plan is developed and imposed upon the site. Block modeling of the mine geology is conducted to identify the mineral assemblages present, their masses and compositional variations. This information is used to select samples, representative of waste rock to be generated, that will be analyzed and tested to describe characteristics influencing waste rock drainage quality. The characterization results are used to select samples for laboratory dissolution testing (kinetic tests). These tests provide empirical data on dissolution of the various mineral assemblages present as waste rock. The data generated are used, in conjunction with environmental conditions, the proposed method of mine waste storage, and scientific and technical principles, to estimate solute release rates for the operational scale waste rock.Common concerns regarding waste rock are generation of acidic drainage and release of heavy metals and sulfate. Key solid phases in the assessments are those that dissolve to release acid and sulfate (iron sulfides, soluble iron sulfates, hydrated iron-sulfate minerals, minerals of the alunite–jarosite group), those that dissolve to neutralize acid (calcium and magnesium carbonates, silicate minerals), and those that release trace metals (trace metal sulfides, hydrated trace metal-sulfate minerals). Conventional mineralogic, petrographic, and geochemical analyses generally can be used to determine the quantities of these minerals present and to describe characteristics that influence their dissolution. A key solid-phase characteristic is the mineral surface area exposed for reaction, which is influenced by mode of occurrence (included, interstitial, liberated) and the extent of mineral surface coating. Short-term dissolution tests can estimate the extent of hydrated sulfate minerals present. Longer term dissolution tests are necessary to describe the dependence of drainage pH and solute release rates on solid-phase variation. The extensive data compiled from baseline pre-development definition, the operational plan, solid-phase characterization, and dissolution testing are ultimately synthesized by means of a modeling exercise requiring considerable technical and scientific expertise. The predicted rates (model outputs) are expressed as probability distributions to allow assessment of risk. This exercise must be technically defensible and transparent so that regulators can confidently assess the results and evaluate the operational plan proposed. Technical and non-technical challenges involved in implementing such programs are identified to benefit management planning for both industry and government.
Evaluation of selected static methods used to estimate element mobility, acid-generating and acid-neutralizing potentials associated with geologically diverse mining wastes by Philip L. Hageman; Robert R. Seal; Sharon F. Diehl; Nadine M. Piatak; Heather A. Lowers (125-139).
A comparison study of selected static leaching and acid–base accounting (ABA) methods using a mineralogically diverse set of 12 modern-style, metal mine waste samples was undertaken to understand the relative performance of the various tests. To complement this study, in-depth mineralogical studies were conducted in order to elucidate the relationships between sample mineralogy, weathering features, and leachate and ABA characteristics. In part one of the study, splits of the samples were leached using six commonly used leaching tests including paste pH, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Field Leach Test (FLT) (both 5-min and 18-h agitation), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Method 1312 SPLP (both leachate pH 4.2 and leachate pH 5.0), and the USEPA Method 1311 TCLP (leachate pH 4.9). Leachate geochemical trends were compared in order to assess differences, if any, produced by the various leaching procedures. Results showed that the FLT (5-min agitation) was just as effective as the 18-h leaching tests in revealing the leachate geochemical characteristics of the samples. Leaching results also showed that the TCLP leaching test produces inconsistent results when compared to results produced from the other leaching tests. In part two of the study, the ABA was determined on splits of the samples using both well-established traditional static testing methods and a relatively quick, simplified net acid–base accounting (NABA) procedure. Results showed that the traditional methods, while time consuming, provide the most in-depth data on both the acid generating, and acid neutralizing tendencies of the samples. However, the simplified NABA method provided a relatively fast, effective estimation of the net acid–base account of the samples. Overall, this study showed that while most of the well-established methods are useful and effective, the use of a simplified leaching test and the NABA acid–base accounting method provide investigators fast, quantitative tools that can be used to provide rapid, reliable information about the leachability of metals and other constituents of concern, and the acid-generating potential of metal mining waste.
Waste-rock hydrogeology and geochemistry by Richard T. Amos; David W. Blowes; Brenda L. Bailey; David C. Sego; Leslie Smith; A. Ian M. Ritchie (140-156).
The oxidation of sulfide minerals in waste rock has the potential to generate low-quality drainage that can present a significant challenge to mine owners, regulators, and other stakeholders. Challenges involved in managing waste rock include the large volume of waste rock produced and the difficulty in predicting the quality and quantity of leach water due to the chemical and physical heterogeneities in the waste rock, and the highly non-linear coupling of geochemical and physical processes. Many important studies have been conducted over the past decade, particularly at the field scale, that have investigated the geochemical, hydrological, microbiological, and gas and heat transport aspects of waste-rock. These studies show that although the parameters and processes that influence AMD generation and solute release are fundamentally similar between different waste-rock piles, major differences in the dominant mechanisms of water, gas and heat transport result from differences in the physical and mineralogical properties of the rock piles, and the climatic conditions, including the amount of precipitation and prevailing temperatures. Accurate prediction of the leach water quality from waste-rock requires a detailed characterization of the properties of the rock piles and the coupling of processes specific to the particular conditions. This paper provides a review of the physical and mineralogical characteristics of waste-rock piles, followed by a discussion of the principal processes related to sulfide oxidation and solute loading, and concluding with a discussion on acid mine drainage prediction and prevention techniques.
Geochemical and mineralogical aspects of sulfide mine tailings by Matthew B.J. Lindsay; Michael C. Moncur; Jeffrey G. Bain; John L. Jambor; Carol J. Ptacek; David W. Blowes (157-177).
Tailings generated during processing of sulfide ores represent a substantial risk to water resources. The oxidation of sulfide minerals within tailings deposits can generate low-quality water containing elevated concentrations of SO4, Fe, and associated metal(loid)s. Acid generated during the oxidation of pyrite [FeS2], pyrrhotite [Fe(1− x )S] and other sulfide minerals is neutralized to varying degrees by the dissolution of carbonate, (oxy)hydroxide, and silicate minerals. The extent of acid neutralization and, therefore, pore-water pH is a principal control on the mobility of sulfide-oxidation products within tailings deposits. Metals including Fe(III), Cu, Zn, and Ni often occur at high concentrations and exhibit greater mobility at low pH characteristic of acid mine drainage (AMD). In contrast, (hydr)oxyanion-forming elements including As, Sb, Se, and Mo commonly exhibit greater mobility at circumneutral pH associated with neutral mine drainage (NMD). These differences in mobility largely result from the pH-dependence of mineral precipitation–dissolution and sorption–desorption reactions. Cemented layers of secondary (oxy)hydroxide and (hydroxy)sulfate minerals, referred to as hardpans, may promote attenuation of sulfide-mineral oxidation products within and below the oxidation zone. Hardpans may also limit oxygen ingress and pore-water migration within sulfide tailings deposits. Reduction–oxidation (redox) processes are another important control on metal(loid) mobility within sulfide tailings deposits. Reductive dissolution or transformation of secondary (oxy)hydroxide phases can enhance Fe, Mn, and As mobility within sulfide tailings. Production of H2S via microbial sulfate reduction may promote attenuation of sulfide-oxidation products, including Fe, Zn, Ni, and Tl, via metal-sulfide precipitation. Understanding the dynamics of these interrelated geochemical and mineralogical processes is critical for anticipating and managing water quality associated with sulfide mine tailings.
Long-term mineralogical and geochemical evolution of sulfide mine tailings under a shallow water cover by Michael C. Moncur; Carol J. Ptacek; Matthew B.J. Lindsay; David W. Blowes; John L. Jambor (178-193).
Display OmittedThe long-term influence of a shallow water cover limiting sulfide-mineral oxidation was examined in tailings deposited near the end of operation in 1951 of the former Sherritt-Gordon Zn–Cu mine (Sherridon, Manitoba, Canada). Surface-water, pore-water and core samples were collected in 2001 and 2009 from above and within tailings deposited into a natural lake. Mineralogical and geochemical characterization focused on two contrasting areas of this deposit: (i) sub-aerial tailings with the water table positioned at a depth of approximately 50 cm; and (ii) sub-aqueous tailings stored under a 100 cm water cover. Mineralogical analyses of the sub-aerial tailings showed a zone of extensive sulfide-mineral alteration extending 40 cm below the tailings surface. Moderate alteration was observed at depths ranging from 40 to 60 cm and was limited to depths >60 cm. In contrast, sulfide-mineral alteration within the submerged tailings was confined to a <6 cm thick zone located immediately below the water-tailings interface. This narrow zone exhibited minimal sulfide-mineral alteration relative to the sub-aerial tailings. Sulfur K-edge X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy showed results that were consistent with the mineralogical investigation. Pore-water within the upper 40 cm of the sub-aerial tailings was characterized by low pH (1.9–4.2), depleted alkalinity, and elevated SO4 and metal concentrations. Most-probable number (MPN) enumerations revealed abundant populations of acidophilic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria within these tailings. Conversely, pore-water in the sub-aqueous tailings was characterized by near-neutral pH, moderate alkalinity, and relatively low concentrations of dissolved SO4 and metals. These tailings exhibited signs of dissimilatory sulfate reduction (DSR) including elevated populations of sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB), elevated pore-water H2S concentrations, and strong δ34S-SO4 and δ13C-DIC fractionation. Additionally, mineralogical investigation revealed the presence of secondary coatings on primary sulfide minerals, which may serve as a control on metal mobility within the sub-aqueous tailings. Results from this study provide critical long-term information on the viability of sub-aqueous tailings disposal as a long-term approach for managing sulfide-mineral oxidation.
The fate of cyanide in leach wastes at gold mines: An environmental perspective by Craig A. Johnson (194-205).
This paper reviews the basic chemistry of cyanide, methods by which cyanide can be analyzed, and aspects of cyanide behavior that are most relevant to environmental considerations at mineral processing operations associated with gold mines. The emphasis is on research results reported since 1999 and on data gathered for a series of U.S. Geological Survey studies that began in the late 1990s. Cyanide is added to process solutions as the CN− anion, but ore leaching produces numerous other cyanide-containing and cyanide-related species in addition to the desired cyanocomplex of gold. These can include hydrogen cyanide (HCN); cyanometallic complexes of iron, copper, zinc, nickel, and many other metals; cyanate (CNO−); and thiocyanate (SCN−). The fate of these species in solid wastes and residual process solutions that remain once gold recovery activities are terminated and in any water that moves beyond the ore processing facility dictates the degree to which cyanide poses a risk to aquatic organisms and aquatic-dependent organisms in the local environment.Cyanide-containing and cyanide-related species are subject to attenuation mechanisms that lead to dispersal to the atmosphere, chemical transformation to other carbon and nitrogen species, or sequestration as cyanometallic precipitates or adsorbed species on mineral surfaces. Dispersal to the atmosphere and chemical transformation amount to permanent elimination of cyanide, whereas sequestration amounts to storage of cyanide in locations from which it can potentially be remobilized by infiltrating waters if conditions change. From an environmental perspective, the most significant cyanide releases from gold leach operations involve catastrophic spills of process solutions or leakage of effluent to the unsaturated or saturated zones. These release pathways are unfavorable for two important cyanide attenuation mechanisms that tend to occur naturally: dispersal of free cyanide to the atmosphere and sunlight-catalyzed dissociation of strong cyanometallic complexes, which produces free cyanide that can then disperse to the atmosphere. The widest margins of environmental safety will be achieved where mineral processing operations are designed so that time for offgassing, aeration, and sunlight exposure are maximized in the event that cyanide-bearing solutions are released inadvertently.
Biogeochemical aspects of uranium mineralization, mining, milling, and remediation by Kate M. Campbell; Tanya J. Gallegos; Edward R. Landa (206-235).
Natural uranium (U) occurs as a mixture of three radioactive isotopes: 238U, 235U, and 234U. Only 235U is fissionable and makes up about 0.7% of natural U, while 238U is overwhelmingly the most abundant at greater than 99% of the total mass of U. Prior to the 1940s, U was predominantly used as a coloring agent, and U-bearing ores were mined mainly for their radium (Ra) and/or vanadium (V) content; the bulk of the U was discarded with the tailings (Finch et al., 1972). Once nuclear fission was discovered, the economic importance of U increased greatly. The mining and milling of U-bearing ores is the first step in the nuclear fuel cycle, and the contact of residual waste with natural water is a potential source of contamination of U and associated elements to the environment. Uranium is mined by three basic methods: surface (open pit), underground, and solution mining (in situ leaching or in situ recovery), depending on the deposit grade, size, location, geology and economic considerations (Abdelouas, 2006). Solid wastes at U mill tailings (UMT) sites can include both standard tailings (i.e., leached ore rock residues) and solids generated on site by waste treatment processes. The latter can include sludge or “mud” from neutralization of acidic mine/mill effluents, containing Fe and a range of coprecipitated constituents, or barium sulfate precipitates that selectively remove Ra (e.g., Carvalho et al., 2007). In this chapter, we review the hydrometallurgical processes by which U is extracted from ore, the biogeochemical processes that can affect the fate and transport of U and associated elements in the environment, and possible remediation strategies for site closure and aquifer restoration.This paper represents the fourth in a series of review papers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on geochemical aspects of UMT management that span more than three decades. The first paper (Landa, 1980) in this series is a primer on the nature of tailings and radionuclide mobilization from them. The second paper (Landa, 1999) includes coverage of research carried out under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Program (UMTRA). The third paper (Landa, 2004) reflects the increased focus of researchers on biotic effects in UMT environs. This paper expands the focus to U mining, milling, and remedial actions, and includes extensive coverage of the increasingly important alkaline in situ recovery and groundwater restoration.
Characteristics and environmental aspects of slag: A review by Nadine M. Piatak; Michael B. Parsons; Robert R. Seal (236-266).
Slag is a waste product from the pyrometallurgical processing of various ores. Based on over 150 published studies, this paper provides an overview of mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of different types of slag and their environmental consequences, particularly from the release of potentially toxic elements to water. This chapter reviews the characteristics of both ferrous (steel and blast furnace Fe) and non-ferrous (Ag, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sn, Zn) slag. Interest in slag has been increasing steadily as large volumes, on the order of hundreds of millions of tonnes, are produced annually worldwide. Research on slag generally focuses on potential environmental issues related to the weathering of slag dumps or on its utility as a construction material or reprocessing for secondary metal recovery. The chemistry and mineralogy of slag depend on the metallurgical processes that create the material and will influence its fate as waste or as a reusable product.The composition of ferrous slag is dominated by Ca and Si. Steel slag may contain significant Fe, whereas Mg and Al may be significant in Fe slag. Calcium-rich olivine-group silicates, melilite-group silicates that contain Al or Mg, Ca-rich glass, and oxides are the most commonly reported major phases in ferrous slag. Calcite and trace amounts of a variety of sulfides, intermetallic compounds, and pure metals are typically also present. The composition of non-ferrous slag, most commonly from base-metal production, is dominated by Fe and Si with significant but lesser amounts of Al and Ca. Silicates in the olivine, pyroxene, and melilite groups, as well as glass, spinels, and SiO2 (i.e., quartz and other polymorphs) are commonly found in non-ferrous slag. Sulfides and intermetallic compounds are less abundant than the silicates and oxides. The concentrations of some elements exceed generic USEPA soil screening levels for human contact based on multiple exposure pathways; these elements include Al, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Pb, and Zn based on bulk chemical composition. Each slag type usually contains a specific suite of elements that may be of environmental concern. In general, non-ferrous slag may have a higher potential to negatively impact the environment compared to ferrous slag, and is thus a less attractive material for reuse, based on trace element chemistry, principally for base metals. However, the amount of elements released into the environment is not always consistent with bulk chemical composition. Many types of leaching tests have been used to help predict slag’s long-term environmental behavior. Overall, ferrous slags produce an alkaline leachate due to the dissolution of Ca oxides and silicates derived from compounds originally added as fluxing agents, such as lime. Ferrous slag leachate is commonly less metal-rich than leachate from non-ferrous slag generated during base metal extraction; the latter leachate may even be acidic due to the oxidation of sulfides. Because of its characteristics, ferrous slag is commonly used for construction and environmental applications, whereas both non-ferrous and ferrous slag may be reprocessed for secondary metal recovery. Both types of slag have been a source of some environmental contamination. Research into the environmental aspects of slag will continue to be an important topic whether the goal is its reuse, recycling, or remediation.
Modeling and management of pit lake water chemistry 1: Theory by D.N. Castendyk; L.E. Eary; L.S. Balistrieri (267-288).
Pit lakes are permanent hydrologic/landscape features that can result from open pit mining for metals, coal, uranium, diamonds, oil sands, and aggregates. Risks associated with pit lakes include local and regional impacts to water quality and related impacts to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Stakeholders rely on predictive models of water chemistry to prepare for and manage these risks. This paper is the first of a two part series on the modeling and management of pit lakes. Herein, we review approaches that have been used to quantify wall-rock runoff geochemistry, wall-rock leachate geochemistry, pit lake water balance, pit lake limnology (i.e. extent of vertical mixing), and pit lake water quality, and conclude with guidance on the application of models within the mine life cycle. The purpose of this paper is to better prepare stakeholders, including future modelers, mine managers, consultants, permitting agencies, land management agencies, regulators, research scientists, academics, and other interested parties, for the challenges of predicting and managing future pit lakes in un-mined areas.
Modeling and management of pit lake water chemistry 2: Case studies by D.N. Castendyk; L.S. Balistrieri; C. Gammons; N. Tucci (289-307).
Pit lakes, a common product of open pit mining techniques, may become long-term, post-mining environmental risks or long-term, post-mining water resources depending upon management decisions. This study reviews two published pit lake modeling studies and one pit lake monitoring program in order to increase the transparency of approaches used in pit lake prediction and management. The first model is a two-year limnological simulation of the existing Dexter pit lake, Nevada, USA that accurately modeled temperature profiles, salinity profiles, and turnover events observed between 1999 and 2000. The second model is a 55-year prediction of a future pit lake in the Martha Mine, New Zealand that identified the need for additional mitigation and evaluated potential effects of cost-effective mitigation options. The final study reviews eight years of monitoring data collected from the Berkeley pit lake, Montana, USA, from 2004 to 2012. This study identifies changes in the physical limnology and water quality of the pit lake that resulted from metal recovery operations, and highlights the value of monitoring programs in general. Whereas these pit lakes are different in many ways, the management tools discussed herein maximized the value and understanding of the post-mining resources.