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Laboratory Experiments of As(V) and As(III) Sorption Onto Pit Lake Sediments From Three Different Orebody Types

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  • Arsenic, often associated with precious metals ore deposits, is a major contaminant released during large-scale gold mining. Because of the complex oxidation/reduction and sorption behaviour of As, prediction of the long-term mobility of As in pit lakes is uncertain. The behaviour of As in pit lakes is investigated in this paper by conducting a series of laboratory experiments where As is allowed to adsorb onto pit lakes sediments. Experiments were conducted over a range of pH with both As(III) and As(V) allowed to adsorb onto sediments collected from existing pit lakes found in the three main orebody types in Nevada, USA; porphyry copper, quartz-adularia gold, and Carlin Trend type gold deposits. Results from adsorption experiments show that As(V) and As(III) adsorption is strongly pH dependent with higher uptake at pH 5 and lower uptake at pH 9 for As(V) and higher uptake at pH 9 and lower uptake at pH 5 for As(III). This behaviour, as expected for oxyanions, has been described previously for agricultural soils, iron oxides, and Carlin Trend heap materials. Maximum adsorption of As(V) for the Carlin Trend type gold sediment was 3.0 g/kg at pH 5, 2.0 g/kg for the quartz-adularia sediment, and 0.9 g/kg for the copper porphyry sediment. Maximum adsorption of As(III) for Carlin Trend type gold sediment was 2.5 g/kg at pH 9, 2.2 g/kg for the quartz-adularia sediment, and 2.1 for the copper porphyry sediment. Adsorption isotherms are non-linear and show Freundlich isotherm behaviour. Variations in sorption between the different pit lake sediments under similar conditions can be explained by differences in the elemental composition of the sediment. Most rock forming elements from XRF analysis are similar in quantity except for Fe. The Fe content is highest in the Carlin Trend type gold deposit sediments and lowest in porphyry copper deposit sediments and is the third most abundant element in all three sediments. The Fe content of the sediments correlates well with the amount of As sorption seen in the laboratory experiments.

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