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Minerals 2014, 4(3), 621-641; doi:10.3390/min4030621

Evolution of Acid Mine Drainage Formation in Sulphidic Mine Tailings

SUMIRCO (Sustainable Mining Research & Consult EIRL), Casilla 28, San Pedro de la Paz 4130000, Chile
Received: 26 February 2014 / Revised: 21 April 2014 / Accepted: 21 April 2014 / Published: 8 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mine Waste Characterization, Management and Remediation)
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Abstract

Sulphidic mine tailings are among the largest mining wastes on Earth and are prone to produce acid mine drainage (AMD). The formation of AMD is a sequence of complex biogeochemical and mineral dissolution processes. It can be classified in three main steps occurring from the operational phase of a tailings impoundment until the final appearance of AMD after operations ceased: (1) During the operational phase of a tailings impoundment the pH-Eh regime is normally alkaline to neutral and reducing (water-saturated). Associated environmental problems include the presence of high sulphate concentrations due to dissolution of gypsum-anhydrite, and/or effluents enriched in elements such as Mo and As, which desorbed from primary ferric hydroxides during the alkaline flotation process. (2) Once mining-related operations of the tailings impoundment has ceased, sulphide oxidation starts, resulting in the formation of an acidic oxidation zone and a ferrous iron-rich plume below the oxidation front, that re-oxidises once it surfaces, producing the first visible sign of AMD, i.e., the precipitation of ferrihydrite and concomitant acidification. (3) Consumption of the (reactive) neutralization potential of the gangue minerals and subsequent outflow of acidic, heavy metal-rich leachates from the tailings is the final step in the evolution of an AMD system. The formation of multi-colour efflorescent salts can be a visible sign of this stage. View Full-Text
Keywords: mining; metal; tailings; oxidation; acid mine drainage; waste management; pollution; solubility; reductive dissolution; sulphide; ore deposit; sustainability mining; metal; tailings; oxidation; acid mine drainage; waste management; pollution; solubility; reductive dissolution; sulphide; ore deposit; sustainability
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Dold, B. Evolution of Acid Mine Drainage Formation in Sulphidic Mine Tailings. Minerals 2014, 4, 621-641.

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