Scanning electron microscopy and electron microprobe analysis were used to identify a rare type of As-bearing pyrite in selected specific gravity separates from the Pennsylvanian age Upper Freeport coal bed, west-central Pennsylvania. Arsenic was detected mainly in cell-wall replacement pyrite where concentrations ranged from nondetectable to 1.9 wt %. Although the majority of arsenic-bearing pyrite in the Upper Freeport coal bed is concentrated in massive and late diagenetic pyrite morphologies, the rarer As-bearing cell-replacement pyrite was observed in both light and heavy gravity separates from the three coal facies examined. Arsenic was occasionally detected in cell-filling replacement pyrite, but this As appears to be an artifact produced by signals from underlying and/or adjacent As-bearing cell-wall replacement pyrite. It is postulated that some plants of the Upper Freeport paleoswamp may have biomethylated As, which later could have been converted to dimethylarsine or other volatile organoarsenic compounds by either biologically or chemically driven processes. Once liberated, the arsenic may have been incorporated into pyrite during pyritization of the cell walls. The As incorporation occurred early, before significant compaction of the peat, because the pyritized cell walls are not compacted.
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An unusual occurrence of arsenic-bearing pyrite in the Upper Freeport coal bed, West-Central Pennsylvania