Environmental Geology

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 905–913 | Cite as

The geochemistry of selenium associated with coal waste in the Elk River Valley, Canada

  • C. Lussier
  • V. Veiga
  • S. Baldwin
Original Article


Selenium (Se) concentrations more than 12 times greater than the provincial freshwater quality guideline (2 µg/L) were detected in the Elk River downstream from the five open-pit coal mines in southeastern British Columbia's Elk River Valley. To identify possible sources of Se to the Elk River, samples from the coal-bearing Mist Mountain Formation were studied using X-ray diffraction, elemental and oxide analyses, sequential extractions and heavy liquid separation. Between 2.5 and 21.3% of the total Se in the five types of materials studied is water-soluble and 1.0 to 10.6% is associated with hydrous ferric and manganese oxides. Se associated with sulphides and organic material varies between 60 and 84% of the total Se and Se in the silicate structure varies from 5.9 to 24.7%. The ratio of sulphides to the total of organic carbon is well-correlated with the amount of Se in materials closely associated with coal seams containing less than 6 mg/kg of Se (r=0.916). This may suggest that the amount of organic matter present during deposition affects the amount of Se incorporated into sulphides.


Selenium Coal Mineralogy Sulphides Total organic carbon British Columbia, Canada 



Staff at the Fording River, Greenhills, Coal Mountain, Line Creek and Elkview mines are acknowledged for their assistance with sampling and providing background information. We also thank Barry Ryan, along with the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, for coordinating sample collection and providing information on regional geology. Funding for this study was provided by Fording Coal Ltd., Teck Corporation, Luscar Ltd. and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council through an Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mining EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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