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Effects of soil composition and mineralogy on the bioaccessibility of arsenic from tailings and soil in gold mine districts of Nova Scotia

By Louise Meunier, Stephen R. Walker, Joanna Wragg, Michael B. Parsons, Iris Koch, Heather E. Jamieson and Kenneth J. Reimer

Abstract

Bioaccessibility tests and mineralogical analyses were performed on arsenic-contaminated tailings and soils from gold mine districts of Nova Scotia, Canada, to examine the links between soil composition, mineralogy, and arsenic bioaccessibility. Arsenic bioaccessibility ranges from 0.1% to 49%. A weak correlation was observed between total and bioaccessible arsenic concentrations, and the arsenic bioaccessibility was not correlated with other elements. Bulk X-ray absorption near-edge structure analysis shows arsenic in these near-surface samples is mainly in the pentavalent form, indicating that most of the arsenopyrite (As1−) originally present in the tailings and soils has been oxidized during weathering reactions. Detailed mineralogical analyses of individual samples have identified up to seven arsenic species, the relative proportions of which appear to affect arsenic bioaccessibility. The highest arsenic bioaccessibility (up to 49%) is associated with the presence of calcium−iron arsenate. Samples containing arsenic predominantly as arsenopyrite or scorodite have the lowest bioaccessibility (<1%). Other arsenic species identified (predominantly amorphous iron arsenates and arsenic-bearing iron(oxy)hydroxides) are associated with intermediate bioaccessibility (1 to 10%). The presence of a more soluble arsenic phase, even at low concentrations, results in increased arsenic bioaccessibility from the mixed arsenic phases associated with tailings and mine-impacted soils.\u

Publisher: American Chemical Society
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1021/es9035682
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:9835

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