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Minerals 2018, 8(11), 513;

Understanding Heterogeneity of a Slag-Derived Weathered Material: The Role of Automated SEM-EDS Analyses

Department of Earth Sciences and Environmental Management, Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Wrocław, pl. Borna 9, 50-204 Wrocław, Poland
Department of Soil Sciences and Environmental Protection, Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, C.K. Norwida 25/27, 50-375 Wroclaw, Poland
Department of Economic Geology and Petrology, Institute of Mineralogy at TU Freiberg Brennhausgasse 14, D-09596 Freiberg, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 August 2018 / Revised: 30 October 2018 / Accepted: 3 November 2018 / Published: 8 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Metallurgical Slags)
PDF [4232 KB, uploaded 8 November 2018]


Slag heaps over years may evolve into complexly weathered zones, which are a challenging material for analyses as they contain phases from numerous sources and at different stages of weathering. However, the weathered zones are important parts of slag heaps, because they contain both primary and secondary phases enriched in metal(oid)s that may become soluble under specific conditions. The weathering reactions related to metal release or precipitation may be recorded in a heavy mineral fraction as the fraction contains predominately minerals with elevated toxic elements concentrations. Therefore, an automated SEM analysis on a polished section of included heavy mineral particles was applied in this paper for a rapid recognition of phases in a complex setting and their classification into detrital, primary and secondary phases. The approach was applied to a slag heap in Świętochłowice (Upper Silesia, Poland) and it consisted of analyzing magnetic and non-magnetic heavy mineral fractions from three distinct horizons noted A, B and C. Materials had been previously interpreted as being sourced from the heap itself (lowermost horizon C) and from artificially added materials used later for superficial site remediation (upper horizons A and B). Instead, automated SEM analysis demonstrated that horizon C is derived from the slag heap weathering, horizon B is derived predominately from the artificially added materials, whereas horizon A is a mixture of the B and C horizons. Additionally, when slag particles in horizons A and C are compared, the lowermost horizon C contains more slag-derived secondary phases, whereas horizon A contains more primary slag phases. Therefore, horizon A remains the most prone to releasing toxic elements because, considering its position as the uppermost horizon, it can be submitted to climatic solicitation (fast water circulation). View Full-Text
Keywords: anthroposols; slag weathering; slag remediation; Zn-Pb ore smelting; mineral liberation analysis; Upper Silesia anthroposols; slag weathering; slag remediation; Zn-Pb ore smelting; mineral liberation analysis; Upper Silesia

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Pietranik, A.; Kierczak, J.; Tyszka, R.; Schulz, B. Understanding Heterogeneity of a Slag-Derived Weathered Material: The Role of Automated SEM-EDS Analyses. Minerals 2018, 8, 513.

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