Characterizing geochemical reactions in unsaturated mine waste-rock piles using gaseous O2, CO2, 12CO2, and 13CO2

Birkham, T. K., Hendry, M. J., Wassenaar, L. I., Mendoza, C. A. and Lee, E. S. (2003) Characterizing geochemical reactions in unsaturated mine waste-rock piles using gaseous O2, CO2, 12CO2, and 13CO2. Environmental Science and Technology, 37(3), pp. 496-501. (doi:10.1021/es020587c) (PMID:12630464)

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Abstract

In situ determinations of geochemical reaction rates in mine waste-rock piles remain a challenge. Depth-profiles of field O2 and CO2 pore-gas concentrations, δ13CCO2 values, and moisture contents were used to characterize and quantify geochemical reaction rates in two waste-rock piles at the Key Lake Uranium Mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Traditionally, the presence of O2 concentrations less than atmospheric in waste-rock piles has been attributed to mineral oxidation. This study showed that the interpretation of O2 and CO2 concentration profiles alone could not be used to identify the depths of dominant geochemical reactions in the piles and could lead to erroneous estimates of reaction rates. Modeling of the δ13CCO2 depth profiles clearly showed that the gas concentration profiles present in the piles were the result of the oxidation of organic matter present below the piles, a mechanism not previously reported in the literature. Based on these findings, the rates of reactions in the organic zone were determined. The oxidation of organic matter at the base of waste-rock piles should be considered in future mine-waste pore-gas studies, in addition to sulfide oxidation and carbonate buffering.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hendry, Professor Martin
Authors: Birkham, T. K., Hendry, M. J., Wassenaar, L. I., Mendoza, C. A., and Lee, E. S.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Physics and Astronomy
Journal Name:Environmental Science and Technology
Journal Abbr.:EST
Publisher:American Chemical Society
ISSN:0013-936X
ISSN (Online):1520-5851

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