Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 14, pp 12918–12926 | Cite as

Mechanistic study of lead desorption during the leaching process of ion-absorbed rare earths: pH effect and the column experiment

  • Jie Tang
  • Qiang XueEmail author
  • Honghan ChenEmail author
  • Wenting Li
Research Article


High concentrations of ammonium sulfate, often used in the in situ mining process, can result in a decrease of pH in the environment and dissolution of rare earth metals. Ammonium sulfate can also cause desorption of toxic heavy metals, leading to environmental and human health implications. In this study, the desorption behavior and fraction changes of lead in the ion-absorbed rare earth ore were studied using batch desorption experiments and column leaching tests. Results from batch desorption experiments showed that the desorption process of lead included fast and slow stages and followed an Elovich model well. The desorption rate and the proportion of lead content in the solution to the total lead in the soil were observed to increase with a decrease in the initial pH of the ammonium sulfate solution. The lead in soil included an acid-extractable fraction, reducible fraction, oxidizable fraction, and a residual fraction, with the predominant fractions being the reducible and acid-extractable fractions. Ninety-six percent of the extractable fraction in soil was desorbed into solution at pH = 3.0, and the content of the reducible fraction was observed to initially increase (when pH >4.0) and then decrease (when pH <4.0) with a decrease in pH. Column leaching tests indicated that the content of lead in the different fractions of soil followed the trend of reducible fraction > oxidizable fraction > acid-extractable fraction > residual fraction after the simulating leaching mining process. The change in pH was also found to have a larger influence on the acid-extractable and reducible fractions than the other two fractions. The proportion of the extractable fraction being leached was ca. 86%, and the reducible fraction was enriched along the migration direction of the leaching liquid. These results suggest that certain lead fractions may desorb again and contaminate the environment via acid rain, which provides significant information for environmental assessment and remediation after mining process.

Graphical abstract


Ion-absorbed rare earth ore Lead Desorption Ammonium sulfate pH effect Column tests 



This work was financially supported by the Research Fund of China Geological Survey (DD20160300), the National Water Pollution Control and Treatment Science and Technology Major Project (2015ZX07406005-001), and the Fundamental Research Fund for the Central Universities (No. 2652016015). We would also like to thank Prof. Zhongyu Ren, Mr. Jia Zhang, and Shuai Yang for their kind help during the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Beijing Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, School of Water Resources and EnvironmentChina University of GeosciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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