Mobility and retention of trace elements in hardpan-cemented cassiterite tailings, north Queensland, Australia

Lottermoser, Bernd G., and Ashley, Paul M. (2006) Mobility and retention of trace elements in hardpan-cemented cassiterite tailings, north Queensland, Australia. Environmental Geology, 50 (6). pp. 835-846.

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Abstract

This study reports on the mobility and retention of trace elements in cassiterite tailings at the inactive Jumna mill, tropical north Queensland. Since the 1980s, the uncapped tailings have developed laterally discontinuous Fe-rich hardpans, which are located in the higher parts of gently sloping tailings masses and at the top (<50 cm) of the tailings piles. Hardpan-cemented tailings comprise thin layers (typically ∼0.2–2 mm thick) of HFO (hydrous ferric oxides) and sulfate efflorescences cementing tailings grains. In comparison to the tailings, the hardpan-cemented tailings contain significantly higher median As, Ca, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, In, Mn, Mo, Stotal, Th, U, Y and Zn values. Partial leaching studies of tailings and pond water analyses indicate that wetting and acidification of Fe-cemented tailings removes significant proportions of trace elements into pore and surface waters. Tin shows no mobility due to the presence of weathering-resistant cassiterite (SnO2) and, As and Pb display limited mobility possibly due to their coprecipitation with jarosite-type phases and HFO materials at the top of the tailings profile. By contrast, the trace elements Cd, Ce, Cu, La, Ni, Pb, U and Zn display the greatest mobility, possibly due to their incorporation in soluble sulfate efflorescences and sorption onto mineral and HFO surfaces. Hence, the Fe-rich hardpans do not protect the sulfidic tailings from further oxidation nor do they cause permanent sequestration of trace elements.

Item ID: 4611
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0495
Keywords: cemented layer; tailings; acid mine drainage; hardpan; geochemistry; sulfide oxidation; mineralogy; Australia
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2009 01:53
SEO Codes: 84 MINERAL RESOURCES (excl. Energy Resources) > 8498 Environmentally Sustainable Mineral Resource Activities > 849899 Environmentally Sustainable Mineral Resource Activities not elsewhere classified @ 51%
85 ENERGY > 8598 Environmentally Sustainable Energy Activities > 859899 Environmentally Sustainable Energy Activities not elsewhere classified @ 49%
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