Sequential extraction of sulfide-rich tailings remediated by the application of till cover, Kristineberg mine, northern Sweden

Carlsson E., Thunberg, J., Holmström, H., Öhlander, B.
Science of the Total Environment



A sequential extraction has been carried out on sulfide-rich mine tailings. The purpose was to investigate how elements released by oxidation are secondarily retained in the tailings and the possible consequences of the remediation. After investigating the solid tailings, seven samples were chosen for sequential extractions. Two samples were oxidised, situated just above the oxidation front; two samples from just below the former oxidation front with increased concentrations of several elements; two unoxidised samples were from an intermediate depth, and the deepest sample was from the tailings–peat boundary at the bottom of the impoundment. Five phases were extracted: adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate; labile organics; amorphous Fe-oxyhydroxides/Mn-oxides; crystalline Fe-oxides; and organics/sulfides. The addition from dried porewater to the extracted fractions has been calculated and considered as minor. In the oxidised tailings, the sulfide fraction still dominates for elements such as Fe, S, Cd, Co, Cu, Hg and Zn, although the concentrations are low compared to the unoxidised tailings. Generally, the second most important fraction is the adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate fraction. Below the oxidation front, the sulfide content of the tailings sharply increases. In the secondary enrichment zone, the total element concentrations increase compared with the deeper unoxidised samples, mainly due to secondary retention. For some elements, secondary retention is greater than the total amount extracted for the deeper unoxidised samples. In the secondary enrichment zone the adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate fraction represents approximately 20 wt.% or more for Cd, Co, Mn, Ni and Zn. The amorphous iron oxyhydroxide or the crystalline iron oxide fractions are less important at this level, although for As, Ba and Cu the amorphous iron oxyhydroxide fraction represents up to 20 wt.%. At the lower border of the enrichment zone, the total concentration for most metals is lower, but the importance of the adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate fraction is further enhanced for Cd, Cu, Ni and Zn. These elements have 35–60 wt.% of the total amount from this fraction. For As, Cd, Cu, Ni and Pb, the secondary fractions extracted (extractions A–D) represent between 60 and 80 wt.% of the total content. At greater depth in the impoundment the relative importance of the adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate fraction decreases, whilst the importance of amorphous iron oxyhydroxide and crystalline iron oxide fractions increases. The adsorbed/exchangeable/carbonate fraction is the most easily remobilised fraction. A raised groundwater table previously situated below the enrichment zone may result in the release of secondarily retained metals.