Oxidation of FeS2 in mine waste releases SO42-, Fe(II) and H+, resulting in acid mine drainage (AMD). Subsequent oxidation and precipitation of Fe produces different Fe(III) phases where the mineralogical composition depends on pH and the ambient concentrations of metal ions and complexing ligands. The oxidation and precipitation of Fe in AMD has been studied under various conditions with the intent of understanding the role these processes play in the natural attenuation of metal contaminants in the AMD. The combined process of Fe oxidation and precipitation in AMD from the Kristineberg mine, northern Sweden, has been investigated with pH-stat experiments at pH 5.5 and 7 at 10 and 25 °C. The precipitates formed have been characterised in terms of mineralogy and surface area. Similar phases formed at both temperatures, while the oxidation and precipitation occurred more readily at the higher temperature and higher pH. At pH 7, mainly lepidocrocite (γ-FeOOH) was precipitated while at a lower pH of 5.5, a mixture of schwertmannite, goethite, ferrihydrite and lepidocrocite formed. The ambient Zn(II) concentration was immediately reduced to acceptable levels (according to Swedish EPA) at pH 7 whereas a 2–3 weeks ageing period was necessary to achieve the same effect at pH 5.5. The presence of natural organic matter (NOM) reduced the attenuating effect at pH 5.5 after ageing but increased it slightly at pH 7. Addition of Zn(II) at pH 8 resulted in a mixed Fe(III)–Zn(II) precipitate of unknown composition with some Zn(II) adsorbed at the surface. The Fe(III) precipitates formed are potentially useful for the natural attenuation of metal contaminants in AMD although based on these investigations, the degree of success depends upon pH and NOM concentration.
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