Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 25, pp 20372–20389 | Cite as

Elemental mobility in sulfidic mine tailings reclaimed with paper mill by-products as sealing materials

  • Yu JiaEmail author
  • Nanna Stahre
  • Maria Mäkitalo
  • Christian Maurice
  • Björn Öhlander
Research Article


Sealing layers made of two alkaline paper mill by-products, fly ash and green liquor dregs, were placed on top of 50-year-old sulfide-containing tailings as a full-scale remediation approach. The performance and effectiveness of the sealing layers with high water content for an oxygen barrier and low hydraulic conductivity for a sealing layer in preventing the formation of acid rock drainage were evaluated 5 years after the remediation. The leaching behavior of the covered tailings was studied using batch leaching tests (L/S ratio 10 L/kg). The leaching results revealed that, in general, the dregs- and ash-covered tailings released relatively lower concentrations of many elements contained in acid rock drainage compared to those from the uncovered tailings. A change in the chemical composition and mineralogical state of the tailings was observed for the tailings beneath the covers. The increase in pH caused by the alkaline materials promoted metal precipitation. Geochemical modeling using PHREEQC confirmed most of the geochemical changes of the covered tailings. Both the ash and dregs showed potential to function as sealing materials in terms of their geochemical properties. However, mobilization of Zn and Ni from the lower part of the dregs-covered tailings was observed. The same phenomenon was observed for the lower part of the ash-covered tailings. Ash showed advantages over dregs as a cover material; based on geochemical studies, the ash immobilized more elements than the dregs did. Lysimeters were installed below the sealing layers, and infiltrating water chemistry and hydrology were studied to monitor the amount and quality of the leachate percolating through.


Acid rock drainage Fly ash Green liquor dregs Lysimeter Sealing layer Tailings remediation 



The authors wish to thank the Swedish Research Council for the Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS ID 2011-268-19774-35); the European Union Structural Funds; the Northern Sweden Soil Remediation Center, EDF Objective 2 (Contract MCN IO No 43173); the Sveriges Ingenjör Environmental Fund; and the Center of Advanced Mining and Metallurgy (CAMM) for financial support. The personnel at Rönnskärsverken are acknowledged for the assistance during the field work. Dr. Jinmei Lu is thanked for the sampling assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu Jia
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nanna Stahre
    • 1
    • 3
  • Maria Mäkitalo
    • 1
  • Christian Maurice
    • 1
    • 4
  • Björn Öhlander
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources EngineeringLuleå University of TechnologyLuleåSweden
  2. 2.Department of Environment and Mineral ResourcesGreenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  3. 3.School of Science and TechnologyÖrebro UniversityÖrebroSweden
  4. 4.Ramböll Sverige ABLuleåSweden

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