The knowledge of mineralogy and molecular structure of As is needed to better understand the stability of As in wastes resulting from processing of gold ores. In this study, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, electron microprobe, X-ray diffraction and X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy (including both XANES and EXAFS regimes) were employed to determine the mineralogical composition and local coordination environment of As in gold ores and process tailings from bench-scale tests designed to mimic a common plant practice. Arsenic-bearing minerals identified in the ores and tailings include iron (III) oxyhydroxides, scorodite (FeAsO4??2H2O), ferric arsenates, arseniosiderite (Ca2Fe3 (AsO4)3O2??3H2O), Ca-Fe arsenates, pharmacosiderite (KFe4 (AsO4)3(OH)4??6-7H2O), jarosite (K2Fe6(SO4)4 (OH)12) and arsenopyrite (FeAsS). Iron (III) oxyhydroxides contain variable levels of As from trace to about 22 wt% and Ca up to approximately 9 wt%. Finely ground ore and tailings samples were examined by bulk XAFS and selected mineral grains were analyzed by microfocused XAFS (micro-EXAFS) spectroscopy to reconcile the ambiguities of multiple As sources in the complex bulk EXAFS spectra. XANES spectra indicated that As occurs as As5+in all the samples. Micro-EXAFS spectra of individual iron (III) oxyhydroxide grains with varying As concentrations point to inner-sphere bidentate-binuclear arsenate complexes as the predominant form of As. There are indications for the presence of a second Fe shell corresponding to bidentate-mononuclear arrangement. Iron (III) oxyhydroxides with high As concentrations corresponding to maximum adsorption densities probably occur as nanoparticles. The discovery of Ca atoms around As in iron (III) oxyhydroxides at interatomic distances of 4.14-4.17 A?? and the coordination numbers suggest the formation of arseniosiderite-like nanoclusters by coprecipitation rather than simple adsorption of Ca onto iron (III) oxyhydroxides. Correlation of Ca with As in iron (III) oxyhydroxides as determined by electron microprobe analysis supports the coprecipitate origin for the presence of Ca in iron (III) oxyhydroxides. The samples containing higher abundances of ferric arsenates released higher As concentrations during the cyanidation tests. The presence of highly soluble ferric arsenates and Ca-Fe arsenates, and relatively unstable iron (III) oxyhydroxides with Fe/As molar ratios of less than 4 in the ore and process tailings suggests that not only the tailings in the impoundment will continue to release As, but also there is the potential for mobilization of As from the natural sources such as the unmined ore. ?? 2004 Elsevier Ltd.
Additional publication details
Speciation and characterization of arsenic in gold ores and cyanidation tailings using X-ray absorption spectroscopy