Arsenic and antimony geochemistry of mine wastes, associated waters and sediments at the Giant Mine, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Applied Geochemistry
By: , and 

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Abstract

Elevated levels of arsenic (As) and antimony (Sb) in water and sediments are legacy residues found downstream from gold-mining activities at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada. To track the transport and fate of As and Sb, samples of mine-waste from the mill, and surface water, sediment, pore-water, and vegetation downstream of the mine were collected. Mine waste, pore-water, and sediment samples were analyzed for bulk chemistry, and aqueous and solid-state speciation. Sediment and vegetation chemistry were evaluated using scanning electron microscope imaging, synchrotron-based element mapping and electron microprobe analysis. The distributions of As and Sb in sediments were similar, yet their distributions in the corresponding pore-waters were mostly dissimilar, and the mobility of As was greater than that of Sb. Competition for sorption sites is the most likely cause of elevated Sb concentrations in relatively oxidized pore-water and surface water. The aqueous and solid-state speciation of As and Sb also differed. In pore-water, As(V) dominated in oxidizing environments and As(III) in reducing environments. In contrast, the Sb(V) species dominated in all but one pore-water sample, even under reducing conditions. Antimony(III) appears to preferentially precipitate or adsorb onto sulfides as evidenced by the prevalence of an Sb(III)-S secondary solid-phase and the lack of Sb(III)(aq) in the deeper zones. The As(V)–O solid phase became depleted with depth below the sediment–water interface, and the Sb(V)–O phase persisted under relatively reducing conditions. In the surficial zone at a site populated by Equisetum fluviatile (common horsetail), As and Sb were associated with organic material and appeared mobile in the root zone. In the zone below active plant growth, As and Sb were associated primarily with inorganic phases suggesting a release and reprecipitation of these elements upon plant death. The co-existence of reduced and oxidized As and Sb species, instability of some phases under changing redox conditions, and plant uptake and release pose challenges for remediation efforts at the mine.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Arsenic and antimony geochemistry of mine wastes, associated waters and sediments at the Giant Mine, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
Series title Applied Geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.12.012
Volume 62
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 15 p.
First page 3
Last page 17
Country Canada
State Northwest Territories
City Yellowknife
Other Geospatial Giant Mine