Negative pH, efflorescent mineralogy, and consequences for environmental restoration at the Iron Mountain Superfund site, California.

United States Geological Survey, 3215 Marine Street, Boulder, CO 80303-1066, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.74). 04/1999; 96(7):3455-62. DOI:10.1073/pnas.96.7.3455
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The Richmond Mine of the Iron Mountain copper deposit contains some of the most acid mine waters ever reported. Values of pH have been measured as low as -3.6, combined metal concentrations as high as 200 g/liter, and sulfate concentrations as high as 760 g/liter. Copious quantities of soluble metal sulfate salts such as melanterite, chalcanthite, coquimbite, rhomboclase, voltaite, copiapite, and halotrichite have been identified, and some of these are forming from negative-pH mine waters. Geochemical calculations show that, under a mine-plugging remediation scenario, these salts would dissolve and the resultant 600,000-m3 mine pool would have a pH of 1 or less and contain several grams of dissolved metals per liter, much like the current portal effluent water. In the absence of plugging or other at-source control, current weathering rates indicate that the portal effluent will continue for approximately 3, 000 years. Other remedial actions have greatly reduced metal loads into downstream drainages and the Sacramento River, primarily by capturing the major acidic discharges and routing them to a lime neutralization plant. Incorporation of geochemical modeling and mineralogical expertise into the decision-making process for remediation can save time, save money, and reduce the likelihood of deleterious consequences.

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    ABSTRACT: Abstract The Iron Mountain Mine Superfund Site near Redding, California, is a massive sulfide ore deposit that was mined for iron, silver, gold, copper, zinc, and pyrite intermittently for nearly 100 years. As a result, both water and air reached the sulfide deposits deep within the mountain, producing acid mine drainage consisting of sulfuric acid and heavy metals from the ore. Particularly, the drainage water from the Richmond Mine at Iron Mountain is among the most acidic waters naturally found on Earth. The mineralogy at Iron Mountain can serve as a proxy for understanding sulfate formation on Mars. Selected sulfate efflorescent salts from Iron Mountain, formed from extremely acidic waters via drainage from sulfide mining, have been characterized by means of Raman spectroscopy. Gypsum, ferricopiapite, copiapite, melanterite, coquimbite, and voltaite are found within the samples. This work has implications for Mars mineralogical and geochemical investigations as well as for terrestrial environmental investigations related to acid mine drainage contamination. Key Words: Acid mine drainage-Efflorescent sulfate minerals-Mars analogue-Iron Mountain-Laser Raman spectroscopy. Astrobiology 13, xxx-xxx.
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