Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits

A special issue of Minerals (ISSN 2075-163X). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Mineralogy and Biogeochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 June 2020) | Viewed by 14042

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Departamento de Mineralogía y Petrología, Universidad Complutense Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: contamination and remediation of soils; environmental geochemistry; mining wastes, acid mine drainage; mobility and toxicity of heavy metals
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The technological development that we have achieved and the objectives for the use of "clean" energies in the short-term are associated with a revival in the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources. This is recognized by the European Union, which has identified mineral resources as one of its priority lines of action. However, this foreseeable increase in the extraction of metals, metalloids, and other mineral products generates large amounts of waste. These residues can pose a risk to both human health and ecosystems, as they can contain high concentrations of potentially toxic elements. These risks can be mitigated through the implementation of appropriate remediation measures.

Environmental geochemistry is concerned with the sources, distribution, and interactions of chemical elements in the system of rock–soil–water–air–life. In this Special Issue, we would like to focus on the study of the geochemical behavior of potentially toxic elements (PTEs), their mobility and toxicity in order to carry out a risk assessment, both for human beings and ecosystems.

The main objectives of this Special Issue are focused on the study of the impact that the exploitation of these deposits can have on the environment and its possible remediation. This study includes the evaluation of the levels of pollutants in soil and water, as well as the study of their source of origin and the processes by which they are dispersed.

Prof. María de la Luz García Lorenzo
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • geochemistry
  • biogeochemical cycles
  • mine waste
  • contamination
  • risk assessment
  • acid mine drainage
  • remediation

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 58986 KiB  
Article
3D Spatial Distribution of Arsenic in an Abandoned Mining Area: A Combined Geophysical and Geochemical Approach
by Jesús Ruiz-Roso, Mari Luz García-Lorenzo, Pedro Castiñeiras, Alfonso Muñoz-Martín and Elena Crespo-Feo
Minerals 2020, 10(12), 1130; https://doi.org/10.3390/min10121130 - 15 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2492
Abstract
Abandoned mine wastes, containing high sulfide contents, are of particular concern because of the formation of acid mine drainage (AMD), becoming an active and harmful point source of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) to the environment. A detailed evaluation of the chemical and mineralogical [...] Read more.
Abandoned mine wastes, containing high sulfide contents, are of particular concern because of the formation of acid mine drainage (AMD), becoming an active and harmful point source of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) to the environment. A detailed evaluation of the chemical and mineralogical composition of mining wastes is necessary to determine effective remediation actions. Due to the high amount of generated wastes as a result of mining and processing activities, the cost and time consumed for this characterization are limiting. Hence, efficient tools could be applied to predict the composition of these wastes and their spatial distribution. This study aims to determine the physico-chemical characterization of wastes from mining activities using geochemical and geophysical techniques. The obtained results, both geochemical and geophysical, allow us to locate areas with a high potential risk of contamination by As in an economic and simple way, and enable us to design detailed geochemical sampling campaigns. In addition, the fact that there are conductive fractures in depth suggests the possible circulation of contaminants through them as well as the preferential lines of circulation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits)
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23 pages, 3976 KiB  
Article
Hydrologic and Water Quality Modeling of the Pebble Mine Project Pit Lake and Downstream Environment after Mine Closure
by Ann Maest, Robert Prucha and Cameron Wobus
Minerals 2020, 10(8), 727; https://doi.org/10.3390/min10080727 - 18 Aug 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 4458
Abstract
The Pebble Project in Alaska is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper deposits. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) proposes a 20-year open-pit extraction, sulfide flotation, and deposition of separated pyritic tailings and potentially acid-generating waste rock in the pit at closure. The [...] Read more.
The Pebble Project in Alaska is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper deposits. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) proposes a 20-year open-pit extraction, sulfide flotation, and deposition of separated pyritic tailings and potentially acid-generating waste rock in the pit at closure. The pit will require perpetual pump and treat management. We conducted geochemical and integrated groundwater–surface water modeling and streamflow mixing calculations to examine alternative conceptual models and future mine abandonment leading to failure of the water management scheme 100 years after mine closure. Using EIS source water chemistry and volumes and assuming a well-mixed pit lake, PHREEQC modeling predicts an acidic (pH 3.5) pit lake with elevated copper concentrations (130 mg/L) under post-closure conditions. The results are similar to water quality in the Berkeley Pit in Montana, USA, another porphyry copper deposit pit lake in rocks with low neutralization potential. Integrated groundwater–surface water modeling using MIKE SHE examined the effects of the failure mode for the proposed 20-year and reasonably foreseeable 78-year expansion. Simulations predict that if pumping fails, the 20-year pit lake will irreversibly overtop within 3 to 4 years and mix with the South Fork Koktuli River, which contains salmon spawning and rearing habitat. The 78-year pit lake overtops more rapidly, within 1 year, and discharges into Upper Talarik Creek. Mixing calculations for the 20-year pit show that this spillover would lead to exceedances of Alaska’s copper surface water criteria in the river by a factor of 500–1000 times at 35 miles downstream. The combined modeling efforts show the importance of examining long-term failure modes, especially in areas with high potential impacts to stream ecological services. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits)
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34 pages, 8780 KiB  
Article
Stability of Cu-Sulfides in Submarine Tailing Disposals: A Case Study from Repparfjorden, Northern Norway
by Yulia Mun, Sabina Strmić Palinkaš, Matthias Forwick, Juho Junttila, Kristine Bondo Pedersen, Beata Sternal, Kai Neufeld, Darko Tibljaš and Kåre Kullerud
Minerals 2020, 10(2), 169; https://doi.org/10.3390/min10020169 - 13 Feb 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3207
Abstract
Mine tailings that were produced during the exploitation of the Ulveryggen siliciclastic sediment-hosted Cu deposit in northern Norway were disposed into the inner part of Repparfjorden from 1972 to 1978/1979. This study focuses on the mineralogy and geochemistry of the submarine mine tailings [...] Read more.
Mine tailings that were produced during the exploitation of the Ulveryggen siliciclastic sediment-hosted Cu deposit in northern Norway were disposed into the inner part of Repparfjorden from 1972 to 1978/1979. This study focuses on the mineralogy and geochemistry of the submarine mine tailings and underlying natural marine sediments from the inner part of Repparfjorden, as well as on the primary Ulveryggen ore. The ore mineralization from the neighboring Nussir carbonate sediment-hosted Cu deposit was studied too, due to the forthcoming mining of both deposits. Bornite and chalcopyrite are the major Cu-sulfides, and are characterized by low concentrations of potentially toxic elements including Cd, Hg, and As. The tailing material occupies the uppermost 9 cm of Repparfjorden sediments. It is characterized by predomination of a silty component with elevated Cu (up to 747.7 ppm), Ni (up to 87 ppm), and Cr (up to 417 ppm) concentrations. The high Cu concentration is related to the deposition of mine tailings. In contrast, Ni and Cr concentrations are close to those in naturally occurring stream sediments from the feeding river, Repparfjordelva, reflecting the compatibility of these elements with hosting mafic volcanics, which are widely spread in the Repparfjord Tectonic Window. Copper in the uppermost part of the sediments is bound to the acid-soluble fraction while Ni and Cr are bound to the residual fraction. Artificial placement of large masses of fine-grained material, i.e., smothering, resulted in a diminished biological activity and/or physical distortion of mostly benthic fauna, which was reflected in total organic carbon (TOC) values as low as 0.15% in the uppermost strata. Sulfide minerals are found both in natural marine sediments and in the mine tailings. They are generally well-preserved with an exception for chalcopyrite from the uppermost part of the submarine tailing, which shows signs of incipient weathering. Thermodynamic modeling confirmed that redox potential and pH are important factors in the weathering of sulfides. Available ligands contribute to the Cu speciation. In near-neutral to slightly alkaline conditions a presence of carbonates can lead to the mobilization of Cu in form of CuCO3 complexes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits)
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20 pages, 3639 KiB  
Article
Assessment of Potentially Toxic Elements in Technosols by Tailings Derived from Pb–Zn–Ag Mining Activities at San Quintín (Ciudad Real, Spain): Some Insights into the Importance of Integral Studies to Evaluate Metal Contamination Pollution Hazards
by Mari Luz García-Lorenzo, Elena Crespo-Feo, Jose María Esbrí, Pablo Higueras, Patricia Grau, Isabel Crespo and Ramón Sánchez-Donoso
Minerals 2019, 9(6), 346; https://doi.org/10.3390/min9060346 - 5 Jun 2019
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 3022
Abstract
This work presents an integral methodological approach to assess the environmental potential hazards posed by metals and metalloids hosted by spolic technosols derived from old tailings from a mining operation for galena (PbS, with high Ag contents)-sphalerite (ZnS, with a varied cohort of [...] Read more.
This work presents an integral methodological approach to assess the environmental potential hazards posed by metals and metalloids hosted by spolic technosols derived from old tailings from a mining operation for galena (PbS, with high Ag contents)-sphalerite (ZnS, with a varied cohort of trace elements contents) in central Spain. We studied the total and soluble concentrations and spatial distribution of Pb, Zn, Cd, As, and Fe and the mineralogy of these soils, as well as an ecotoxicological evaluation by means of bioassays. The indices assessing soil contamination such as pollution load index (PI) and natural mobility index (NMI) have been calculated. Furthermore, the phytotoxic effect of the soil samples has been determined and a chronic sediment toxicity test using the benthic ostracod Heterocypris incongruens was applied. The geochemical study of 33 spolic technosols samples indicates large to extremely large metal and metalloid total contents: up to 48,600 mg kg−1 Pb, 34,000 mg kg−1 Zn, 500 mg kg−1 Cd, and 1000 mg kg−1 As. Given that sphalerite is usually the most important host mineral for cadmium in hydrothermal mineral deposits, there is a high correlation (R = 0.75) between this element and Zn. On the other hand, despite being two metallogenically intertwined elements in ore deposits, Pb and Zn show a less significant relationship, which can be attributed both to heterogeneities in the mineralogical composition of the veins, and to the complex history of the mineral concentration process: In the older process, the interest was only for Pb, meanwhile in the late period, the interest was focused in Zn. The Phytotoxkit® bioassay showed that soils with high PTEs presented very high toxicity, particularly the inhibition germination is related to Pb, As, and Cd content and root inhibition with Pb content. Both indexes were correlated with pH and electrical conductivity; samples with lower pH and higher soluble salt content are those with higher seed germination inhibition and root growth inhibition. On the other hand, the Ostracodtoxkit® bioassay showed very high sensitivity, with 100% mortality. The applied bioassays confirmed the soil toxicity and it is highly recommended to complement the results from environmental chemistry with results from bioassays, in order to provide a more complete and relevant information on the bioavailability of contaminants and to characterize the risk of contaminated areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits)
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