Understanding low temperature carbon sequestration through serpentinite–H2
interaction is becoming increasingly important as it is considered a potential approach for carbon storage required to offset anthropogenic CO2
emissions. In this study, we present new insights into spontaneous CO2
mineral sequestration through the formation of hydromagnesite + kerolite with minor aragonite incrustations on serpentinite walls of the Montecastelli copper mine located in Southern Tuscany, Italy. On the basis of field, petrological, and geochemical observations coupled with geochemical modeling, we show that precipitation of the wall coating paragenesis is driven by a sequential evaporation and condensation process starting from meteoric waters which emerge from fractures into the mine walls and ceiling. A direct precipitation of the coating paragenesis is not compatible with the chemical composition of the mine water. Instead, geochemical modeling shows that its formation can be explained through evaporation of mine water and its progressive condensation onto the mine walls, where a layer of serpentinite powder was accumulated during the excavation of the mine adits. Condensed water produces a homogeneous film on the mine walls where it can interact with the serpentinite powder and become enriched in Mg, Si, and minor Ca, which are necessary for the precipitation of the observed coating paragenesis. The evaporation and condensation processes are driven by changes in the air flow inside the mine, which in turns are driven by seasonal changes of the outside temperature. The presence of “kerolite”, a Mg-silicate, is indicative of the dissolution of Si-rich minerals, such as serpentine, through the water–powder interaction on the mine walls at low temperature (~17.0 to 18.1 °C). The spontaneous carbonation of serpentine at low temperature is a peculiar feature of this occurrence, which has only rarely been observed in ultramafic outcrops exposed on the Earth’s surface, where instead hydromagnesite predominantly forms through the dissolution of brucite. The high reactivity of serpentine observed, in this study, is most likely due to the presence of fine-grained serpentine fines in the mine walls. Further study of the peculiar conditions of underground environments hosted in Mg-rich lithologies, such as that of the Montecastelli Copper mine, can lead to a better understanding of the physical and chemical conditions necessary to enhance serpentine carbonation at ambient temperature.
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