The post-depositional behavior of Cu in a gold-mining polishing pond (East Lake, Canada) was assessed after mine closure by examination of porewater chemistry and mineralogy. The near-surface (upper 1.5 cm) sediments are enriched in Cu, with values ranging from 0.4 to 2 wt %. Mineralogical examination revealed that the bulk of the Cu inventory is present as authigenic copper sulfides. Optical microscopy, energy-dispersion spectra, and X-ray data indicate that the main Cu sulfide is covellite (CuS). The formation of authigenic Cu-S phases is supported by the porewater data, which demonstrate that the sediments are serving as a sink for dissolved Cu below sub-bottom depths of 1-2 cm. The zone of Cu removal is consistent with the occurrence of detectable sulfide and the consumption of sulfate. The sediments can be viewed as a passive bioreactor that permanently removes Cu as insoluble copper sulfides. This process is not unlike that which occurs in other forms of bioremediation, such as wetlands and permeable reactive barriers. Above the zone of Cu removal, dissolved Cu maxima in the interfacial porewaters range from 150 to 450 ??g L-1 and reflect the dissolution of a Cu-bearing phase in the surface sediments. The reactive phase is thought to be a component of treatment sludges delivered to the lake as part of cyanide treatment. Flux calculations indicate that the efflux of dissolved Cu from the sediments to the water column (14-51 ??g cm-2 yr-1) can account for the elevated levels of dissolved Cu in lake waters (???50 ??g L-1). Implications for lake recovery are discussed.
Additional publication details
Post-Depositional Behavior of Cu in a Metal-Mining Polishing Pond (East Lake, Canada)