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Leaching of trace metals (Pb) from contaminated tailings amended with iron oxides and manure: New insight from a modelling approach

Abstract : Reclamation measurements are commonly applied to mitigate the leaching of metal pollutants in order to reduce the risk for humans and the environment. The stabilization of mine tailings can be performed by amending with organic or inorganic materials. In a recent laboratory microcosm experiment (Thouin et al., 2019), the addition of a mining slurry called ochre and manure, either alone or in combination, drastically reduced the leaching of several metal pollutants, notably Pb. Nevertheless, the biogeochemical processes involved in the immobilization of metal pollutants remain unknown, preventing the management of this remediation technique from being optimized and its extension to other sites. To fill this gap, a multicomponent mixing model was developed to simulate and forecast the impact of amendments on the leaching of metal pollutants. This model accounts for the following biogeochemical processes: kinetically-controlled dissolution/precipitation reactions, sorption reactions (i.e. surface complexation reactions), water-gas interactions and microbial respiration with an explicit microbial growth. For all treatments, simulations revealed that Pb reactivity followed dynamic patterns driven by watering steps. The decrease in Pb concentration in the leachates of amended tailings compared to untreated tailings was also accurately reproduced. In untreated tailings, Pb reactivity is mainly controlled by the dissolution of Pb-bearing mineral phases. These reactions were maintained in thermodynamic disequilibrium due to the renewal of pore solution at each watering step. In amended tailings, this pattern was strengthened as the iron oxides contributed by ochre maintained a low Pb concentration in pore solution by sorbing released Pb. Sorption reactions were enhanced by the increase in pH induced by the dissolution of calcium carbonate initially present in ochre. The latter reaction was partially counterbalanced in tailings amended with manure as organic matter provided sufficient energy to fuel microbial aerobic respiration, leading to the release of protons. Pb desorption was promoted by this pH drop. The magnitude of these reactions was not strictly proportional to the amount of manure added. For 0.15% by weight, aerobic respiration did not occur whereas its yield was similar for 1% and 2%. By providing a better understanding of the effect of amendment, this multicomponent mixing model is a powerful tool to optimize the reclamation of tailings, in order to limit contaminant transfer to the environment.
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Submitted on : Monday, May 31, 2021 - 8:37:37 AM
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Samuel Mertz, Lydie Le Forestier, Philippe Bataillard, Nicolas Devau. Leaching of trace metals (Pb) from contaminated tailings amended with iron oxides and manure: New insight from a modelling approach. Chemical Geology, Elsevier, 2021, 579, pp.120356. ⟨10.1016/j.chemgeo.2021.120356⟩. ⟨insu-03242351⟩

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