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Post-depositional redistribution of trace metals in reservoir sediments of a mining/smelting-impacted watershed (the Lot River, SW France)

Abstract : Mining/smelting wastes and reservoir sediment cores from the Lot River watershed were studied using mineralogical (XRD, SEM-EDS, EMPA) and geochemical (redox dynamics, selective extractions) approaches to characterize the main carrier phases of trace metals. These two approaches permitted determining the role of post-depositional redistribution processes in sediments and their effects on the fate and mobility of trace metals. The mining/smelting wastes showed heterogeneous mineral compositions with highly variable contents of trace metals. The main trace metal-bearing phases include spinels affected by secondary processes, silicates and sulfates. The results indicate a clear change in the chemical partitioning of trace metals between the reservoir sediments upstream and downstream of the mining/smelting activities, with the downstream sediments showing a 2-fold to 5-fold greater contribution of the oxidizable fraction. This increase was ascribed to stronger post-depositional redistribution of trace metals related to intense early diagenetic processes, including dissolution of trace metal-bearing phases and precipitation of authigenic sulfide phases through organic matter (OM) mineralization. This redistribution is due to high inputs (derived from mining/smelting waste weathering) at the water-sediment interface of (i) dissolved SO4 promoting more efficient OM mineralization, and (ii) highly reactive trace metal-bearing particles. As a result, the main trace metal-bearing phases in the downstream sediments are represented by Zn- and Fe-sulfides, with minor occurrence of detrital zincian spinels, sulfates and Fe oxyhydroxides. Sequestration of trace metals in sulfides at depth in reservoir sediments does not represent long term sequestration owing to possible resuspension of anoxic sediments by natural (floods) and/or anthropogenic (dredging, dam flush) events that might promote trace metal mobilization through sulfide oxidation. It is estimated that, during a major flood event, about 870 t of Zn, 18 t of Cd, 25 t of Pb and 17 t of Cu could be mobilized from the downstream reservoir sediments along the Lot River by resuspension-induced oxidation of sulfide phases. These amounts are equivalent to 13-fold (Cd), not, vert, similar6-fold (Zn), 4-fold (Pb) the mean annual inputs of the respective dissolved trace metals into the Gironde estuary.
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Stéphane Audry, Cécile Grosbois, Hubert Bril, Jörg Schäfer, Jakub Kierczak, et al.. Post-depositional redistribution of trace metals in reservoir sediments of a mining/smelting-impacted watershed (the Lot River, SW France). Applied Geochemistry, Elsevier, 2010, 25 (6), pp.778-794. ⟨10.1016/j.apgeochem.2010.02.009⟩. ⟨insu-00462650⟩

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