Geochemistry of the infiltrating water in the vadose zone of a remediated tailings impoundment, Kristineberg mine, northern Sweden

Carlsson, E., Öhlander, B., and Holmström, H.
Applied Geochemistry


At the remediated tailings Impoundment 1 at Kristineberg, Northern Sweden, installations of tension lysimeters were performed in the protective cover (10, 50, and 100 cm), in the oxidised tailings (150 cm), in the unoxidised secondarily enriched tailings (200 cm) and in the unoxidised tailings (260 cm). The lysimeters in the till protective cover contained relatively low concentrations of most elements. After infiltration through the sealing layer, consisting of 0.3 m compacted clayey till, pH decreased and conductivity, together with the concentrations of several major and trace elements, increased significantly. In the lysimeters installed in the tailings at depths of 150 and 200 cm average pH decreased to 3.4 at 150 cm and 3.2 at 200 and average conductivity increased to 2.9 mS/cm. Elements such as Al, Cd, Co, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni,Pb, S, Si and Zn had the highest concentrations in the lysimeter at 200 cm depth. Examples of concentration averages for this lysimeter are Cd 600 μg/L, Fe 1500 mg/L, Mn 11 mg/L, Ni 1.06 μg/L, S 1800 mg/L, and Zn 190 mg/L. Between the depths of 200 and 260 cm the concentration of most elements decreased. The increase between the lysimeters at the depths of 150 and 200 cm can be explained by remobilization of secondarily retained oxidation products as well as from the continued oxidation. The decrease between the second and the third lysimeters is interpreted as co-precipitation with different Fe oxyhydroxides as well as adsorption onto secondarily formed minerals and primary mineral surfaces. Calculations of saturation indices indicate that several different hydroxides might precipitate at this level. This retainment takes place mainly due to the increase in pH. The pH increases from 3.2 up to 4–4.4 in this depth interval. Between the deepest lysimeter and the groundwater table, the element concentrations probably decrease even further. pH increases to 5–6.5 in the groundwater. Most of the pre-remediation oxidation products that are secondarily retained above or below the oxidation front and are released by the small amount of infiltrating water together with the present oxidation products are retained again during continued transport downwards. If the depth to the groundwater table is large enough, most of the metals released by the infiltrating water and the diffusing O2 do not reach the groundwater.



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