The Identification of Contaminants in Mine Site Waste Waters by ICP-MS
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Jan 1, 1994
Waste waters from mine sites may be screened for all constituents of significance as a first step in establishing water quality criteria for protection of aquatic ecosystems. Inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) offers the capability to screen water samples and digest solutions for virtually all elements in the periodic table. This technique is therefore able to identify elements whose concentrations are elevated in waste waters and may be rarely present in background surface or ground waters. Such elements may be present in waters at only a few ¦g/L. ICP-MS has sufficient sensitivity to detect sub-¦g/L or even ng/L levels of many elements. Waste waters from most mining activities in the Northern Territory have been examined by ICP-MS. The concentration data provide the basis of a contaminant data base. The data can show specific tracers in the ore or mineral itself, subsequently found in waste water. An example is the presence of rhenium in uranium ore. Such trace elements may be present in soluble or insoluble chemical forms and are more useful as indicators when soluble and exemplifying conservative chemical behaviour. The approach described, based on ICP-MS screening of mine site waste waters, together with general physico-chemical variables, provides the most comprehensive means yet available of selecting variables for monitoring programs and ensures that key elements and/or their chemical species are not excluded from monitoring programs.