Solid-phase speciation of copper in mine wastes

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


Ecosystems in the Keweenaw Peninsula region of Lake Superior, USA, were disturbed by over 500 million tons of copper-rich mine tailings during the period 1850-1968. Metals leaching from these mine residues have had dramatic effects on the ecosystems. Vast acreages of exposed tailings that are over 100 years old remain unvegetated because of the combination of metal toxicity, absence of nutrients, and temperature and water stress. Therefore, it is important to characterize and fractionate solid copper phases for assessing labile forms of copper in soils and sediments contaminated by the mining wastes. X-ray diffraction analyses indicate that calcite, quartz, hematite, orthoclase, and sanidine minerals are present as major minerals, whereas cuprite, tenorite, malachite, and chalcopyrite might be present as copper minerals in the mining wastes. Sequential extraction technique revealed that carbonate and oxide fractions were the largest pools of copper (ca. 50-80%) in lakeshore and wetland stamp sands whereas the organic matter fraction was the largest reservoir (ca. 32%) in the lake sediments. The concentrations of iron and copper were inversely correlated in the oxide fraction suggesting that copper may occur as a surface coating on iron oxides. As particle size and water contents decrease, the percent of the copper bound to the labile carbonate fraction increases.

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Bulletin of the Korean Chemical Society