Comparison of Two Leach Procedures Applied to Metal-Mining Related Wastes in Colorado and Montana and a Relative Ranking Method for Mine Wastes

Fey, David L. ; Desborough, George A. ; Church, Stanley E.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
About 100 mine-waste dumps from past metal exploration and mining in Colorado and Montana were sampled using surficial-sampling methods for laboratory studies of the minus-2-mm fraction. In the laboratory, the composite samples were split into l00g samples that were leached to assess their acid-generation potential and associated release of potentially toxic metals that may degrade water quality in the headwaters of the Animas River watershed in Colorado and the Boulder River watershed in Montana. Two leach methods were studied: a passive leach using de-ionized water, and a more aggressive leach following the EPA-1312 method. The resulting pH values of the leachates using both methods are comparable. The concentrations of sulfate and several, but not all, dissolved or water-soluble metals are higher in the EPA-1312 leachates than in the passive leachates; however, the overall trends of the data are very similar. The passive leach method is less labor intensive and may be more representative of the natural weathering process occurring on the mine-waste dumps, simulating the natural precipitation and snowmelt. Three chemical characteristics of mine wastes studied here provide a relative ranking of mine-waste dumps for the purpose of determining priority for removal or remediation. These characteristics are: net acid production (NAP), sum of dissolved toxic metals (?As+Cd+Cu+Pb+Zn), and dissolved iron in leachates. Ranking can be done evaluating plots of NAP versus the sum of dissolved toxic metals, and NAP versus dissolved iron. These two plots serve as a basis for relative ranking of polymetallic-vein and acid-sulfate mine wastes studied. This ranking scheme may apply to mine wastes from production of other deposit types in other watersheds.
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