Mine Wastes

pp 43-117


Sulfidic Mine Wastes

  • Bernd G. LottermoserAffiliated withSchool of Earth & Environmental Sciences, James Cook University Email author 

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Sulfide minerals are common minor constituents of the Earth’s crust. In some geological environments, sulfides constitute a major proportion of rocks. In particular, metallic ore deposits (Cu, Pb, Zn, Au, Ni, U, Fe), phosphate ores , coal seam s, oil shales , and mineral sands may contain abundant sulfides. Mining of these resources can expose the sulfides to an oxygenated environment. In fact, large volumes of sulfide minerals can be exposed in: tailings dams ; waste rock dumps; coal spoil heaps; heap leach piles ; run-of-mine and low-grade ore stockpiles; waste repository embankments; open pit floors and faces; underground workings ; haul roads; road cuts; quarries; and other rock excavations. When the sulfides are exposed to the atmosphere or oxygenated ground water, the sulfides will oxidize to produce an acid water laden with sulfate, heavy metal s and metalloids. The mineral pyrite (FeS2) tends to be the most common sulfide mineral present. The weathering of this mineral at mine sites causes the largest, and most testing, environmental problem facing the industry today – acid mine drainage (AMD ) (Scientific Issue 2.1).