Environmental geochemistry of the derelict Webbs Consols mine, New South Wales, Australia

Ashley, P.M., Lottermoser, B.G., Collins, A.J., and Grant, C.D. (2004) Environmental geochemistry of the derelict Webbs Consols mine, New South Wales, Australia. Environmental Geology, 46 (5). pp. 591-604.

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Small-scale mining and mineral processing at the Webbs Consols polymetallic PbZnAg deposit in northern New South Wales, Australia has caused a significant environmental impact on streams, soils and vegetation. Unconfined waste rock dumps and tailings dams are the source of the problems. The partly oxidised sulphidic mine wastes contain abundant sulphides (arsenopyrite, sphalerite, galena) and oxidation products (scorodite, anglesite, smectite, Fe-oxyhydroxides), and possess extreme As and Pb (wt% levels) and elevated Ag, Cd, Cu, Sb and Zn values. Contemporary sulphide oxidation, hardpan formation, crystallisation of mineral efflorescences and acid mine drainage generation occur within the waste repositories. Acid seepages (pH 1.9–6.0) from waste dumps, tailings dams and mine workings display extreme As, Pb and Zn and elevated Cd, Cu and Sb contents. Drainage from the area is by the strongly contaminated Webbs Consols Creek and although this stream joins and is diluted by the much larger Severn River, contamination of water and stream sediments in the latter is evident for 1–5 km, and 12 km respectively, downstream of the mine site. The pronounced contamination of local and regional soils and sediments, despite the relatively small scale of the former operation, is due to the high metal tenor of abandoned waste material and the scarcity of neutralising minerals. Any rehabilitation plan of the site should include the relocation of waste materials to higher ground and capping, with only partial neutralisation of the waste to pH 4–5 in order to limit potential dissolution of scorodite and mobilisation of As into seepages and stream waters.

Item ID: 4474
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0495
Keywords: acid mine drainage; derelict mine; heavy metals; metalloids; arsenic; tailings; waste rock
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2009 04:10
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040202 Inorganic Geochemistry @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9612 Rehabilitation of Degraded Environments > 961208 Rehabilitation of Degraded Urban and Industrial Environments @ 100%
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