In a column experiment, acidic groundwater from Pinal Creek Arizona, a Cu mining area, was eluted through a composited alluvial sample obtained from a core that had been removed from a well downgradient of the acidic groundwater. The minerals present in typical grains and flakes in the alluvium before and after the elution were determined by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy, and energy dispersive multichannel analyses (EDX). The concentrations of Fe, Ti, Mn, Si, Al, Na, Ca, K, Mg and S in these grains and flakes and in their microcrystalline surface coatings were measured by EDX. In addition to magnetite, hematite, and Fe-Ti oxides, Fe was most concentrated in micas (especially biotite-like flakes) and in the microcrystalline coatings. The measured elements in these microcrystalline coatings were primarily K, Fe, Al, and Si. The microcrystalline coatings on the mica flakes also contained Mg. The approximate 1:3 Mg:Si atomic ratios (ARs) of the biotite-like flakes both before and after the elution would suggest that the Fe deposited during the elution had not substituted for Mg in these flakes. As a result of the elution, assuming no loss of Si, the averaged recorded Fe:Si AR of the microcrystalline coatings increased from (0,46 to 0.58):3.00. Iron deposition on the typical grains and flakes may relate to the presence of Fe in the particle on which it is deposited or to the presence of Fe in the microcrystalline surface coatings before elution. The data here are not sufficient for a statistical evaluation, but elution caused the following trends: (1) The Fe:Si A R increased in the (K,Fe,Al,Si)-microcrystalline surface coatings; (2) For the mica flakes, there was more than a 2-fold increase in the Fe:Si AR for the microcrystalline surface coatings of the Fe-rich biotite-like flakes but no measurable increase of the Fe:Si AR for the microcrystalline surface coatings of the muscovite-like flakes that contained 3-5 times less Fe; (3) Also for the biotite-like flakes, the increase in Fe:Si AR was greater in the flakes that had a higher Fe:Si AR; (4) The Fe deposition on the Fe-rich microcrystalline surface coatings of the feldspar was much greater than on the Fe-poor, beige quartz and feldspar grains that, prior to elution, had only CaSO4 microcrystalline coatings; and (5) No Fe was deposited on Fe-poor grains with no microcrystalline surface coating.
Additional publication details
Iron deposition as acidic groundwater encounters carbonates in the alluvium of Pinal Creek, Arizona, U.S.A.