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Stellenbosch University (2015)

Influence of Acid Mine Drainage on the soils of Nababeep, Namaqualand with reference to soil chemistry, minerals and metal mobility

Smuts, Ian Heinrich

Titre : Influence of Acid Mine Drainage on the soils of Nababeep, Namaqualand with reference to soil chemistry, minerals and metal mobility

Auteur : Smuts, Ian Heinrich

Université de soutenance : Stellenbosch University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2015

Résumé
The Okiep copper district in the north-western corner of South Africa is a region that has been mined for over 150 years. Most mining operations have ceased, but years of mining has left the area scattered with abandoned mining sites. Acids (as used in ore processing) together with acid mine drainage generated from tailings exposure, collectively referred to as AMD hereafter, are a contamination risk to water resources and the biodiversity of this arid area. This study focused on an abandoned copper processing pond located close to the town of Nababeep. The leaching pond is unlined and has been excavated in the shallow colluvial soils. The natural soils of the area are shallow (60 cm) (WRB – Arenosol ; SA – Oakleaf). Formations of corroded granite-gneiss boulders are an indication of the corrosiveness of the AMD collecting in the pond. The AMD was collected from the pond in the dry season at its most concentrated form and the AMD had exceptionally high concentrations of Al (26.9 g/l), Fe (42.9 g/l), Mg (20.5 g/l), Cu (3.8 g/l) and Mn (3.4 g/l). Melanterite (FeSO4·7H2O), a soluble ferrous compound, was found to play an important role in the immediate release of Fe and sulfates. The pristine soils have a sandy texture (2–5.2 %clay). The minerals detected in the clay phase include illite, kaolinite, montmorillonite and quarts. Pristine soils show some degree of contamination with low pH (4.38–4.77) and high Cu and sulfate contents. Soils located in the processing pond, which have been exposed to AMD for an extended period of time, showed poorly crystalline phases to be present (indicated by a broadening of the XRD peaks for clay minerals). Saturation indices (SI) were determined for saturated paste extracts of the pond soils and the obtained SI values support the notion of dissolution of silicate clays, as the obtained SI values ranged between –1.3 and –11.77 for illite and –4.76 to 0.58 for kaolinite. Jarosite, a new phase, formed in the contaminated soil and is a sink for K. Long term weathering experiments of pristine soils exposed to AMD indicated that clay minerals are significantly weathered and altered, which was identified by observing the broadening of the clay XRD peaks. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectra were generated by scanning clay samples of the weathered soil. Amorphous phases were confirmed by structured water bands with wavenumber values of 3700 and 3300 cm−1 for acid treated soil. Micrographs showed a more amorphous and corroded morphology in the acid treated soil. Metal retention experiments were conducted by exposing the pristine soil to AMD repeatedly. Iron was the predominant metal attenuated in the soil. Metals such as Al, Mn, Na, K, Ca and Co were released by the soil into solution. Removal of Si is associated with the dissolution of clay minerals. The pristine soil shows limited capacity to neutralize acidity and low capacity to retain metals when leached with AMD. Metals were predominantly extracted in the water soluble phase of the long term weathering treatments

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