Ketza River mine tailings deposited underwater and those exposed near the tailings impoundment contain approximately 4 wt % As. Column-leaching tests indicated the potential for high As releases from the tailings. The tailings are composed dominantly of iron oxyhydroxides, quartz, calcite, dolomite, muscovite, ferric arsenates, and calcium-iron arsenates. Arsenopyrite and pyrite are trace constituents. Chemical compositions of iron oxyhydroxide and arsenate minerals are highly variable. The XANES spectra indicate that arsenic occurs as As(V) in tailings, but air-drying prior to analysis may have oxidized lower-valent As. The EXAFS spectra indicate As-Fe distances of 3.35-3.36 A?? for the exposed tailings and 3.33-3.35 A?? for the saturated tailings with coordination numbers of 0.96-1.11 and 0.46-0.64, respectively. The As-Ca interatomic distances ranging from 4.15 to 4.18 A?? and the coordination numbers of 4.12-4.58 confirm the presence of calcium-iron arsenates in the tailings. These results suggest that ferric arsenates and inner-sphere corner sharing or bidentatebinuclear attachment of arsenate tetrahedra onto iron hydroxide octahedra are the dominant form of As in the tailings. EXAFS spectra indicate that the exposed tailings are richer in arsenate minerals whereas the saturated tailings are dominated by the iron oxyhydroxides, which could help explain the greater release of As from the exposed tailings during leaching tests. It is postulated that the dissolution of ferric arsenates during flow-through experiments caused the high As releases from both types of tailings. Arsenic tied to iron oxyhydroxides as adsorbed species are considered stable; however, iron oxyhydroxides having low Fe/As molar ratios may not be as stable. Continued As releases from the tailings are likely due to dissolution of both ferric and calcium-iron arsenates and desorption of As from high-As bearing iron oxyhydroxides during aging.
Additional publication details
Speciation and characterization of arsenic in Ketza River mine tailings using x-ray absorption spectroscopy