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Spectroscopic Raman study of sulphate precipitation sequence in Rio Tinto mining district (SW Spain)

Abstract

Acidic waters and sulphate-rich precipitates are typical by-products of mining activity such as in Rio Tinto (Huelva, SW Spain). This river drains pyrite mines situated in the Iberian Pyrite Belt which have been in operation since the Bronze Age and probably constitutes the oldest continuously operating mining activity over the world. In the present work, we have used Raman spectroscopy to study a wide range of natural mineral samples collected at Rio Tinto which origin is related to evaporation and mineral transformation processes in a wet and extreme acidic environment. In addition, we simulated the phenomenon of mineral precipitation in controlled conditions by using a simulator developed at the laboratory evaporating natural water collected at Rio Tinto. Also, a series of experiments using the same waters as small droplets have been carried out using micro-Raman technique. The droplets were placed on substrates with different chemical composition and reactivity. The results reveal that the precipitation sequence occurred in Rio Tinto mainly comprises copiapite and coquimbite group minerals followed by several other low hydrated iron sulphates. The experiments carried out on droplets allow estimating with higher accuracy the precipitation sequence.

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Acknowledgments

This work has been carried out under support of the UMBRELLA Project (7th Framework Programme of the European Union), FP7-ENV-2008-1/ 226870

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Correspondence to Fernando Rull.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Rull, F., Guerrero, J., Venegas, G. et al. Spectroscopic Raman study of sulphate precipitation sequence in Rio Tinto mining district (SW Spain). Environ Sci Pollut Res 21, 6783–6792 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-013-1927-z

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Keywords

  • Rio Tinto
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Acidic mine drainage (AMD)
  • Mineral precipitation sequence