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Acid neutralizing capacity and leachate results for igneous rocks, with associated carbon contents of derived soils, Animas River AML site, Silverton, Colorado

June 5, 2009

Mine planning efforts have historically overlooked the possible acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) that local igneous rocks can provide to help neutralize acidmine drainage. As a result, limestone has been traditionally hauled to mine sites for use in neutralizing acid drainage. Local igneous rocks, when used as part of mine life-cycle planning and acid mitigation strategy, may reduce the need to transport limestone to mine sites because these rocks can contain acid neutralizing minerals. Igneous hydrothermal events often introduce moderately altered mineral assemblages peripheral to more intensely altered rocks that host metal-bearing veins and ore bodies. These less altered rocks can contain ANC minerals (calcite-chlorite-epidote) and are referred to as a propylitic assemblage. In addition, the carbon contents of soils in areas of new mining or those areas undergoing restoration have been historically unknown. Soil organic carbon is an important constituent to characterize as a soil recovery benchmark that can be referred to during mine cycle planning and restoration.
This study addresses the mineralogy, ANC, and leachate chemistry of propylitic volcanic rocks that host polymetallic mineralization in the Animas River watershed near the historical Silverton, Colorado, mining area. Acid titration tests on volcanic rocks containing calcite (2 – 20 wt %) and chlorite (6 – 25 wt %), have ANC ranging from 4 – 146 kg/ton CaCO3 equivalence. Results from a 6-month duration, kinetic reaction vessel test containing layered pyritic mine waste and underlying ANC volcanic rock (saturated with deionized water) indicate that acid generating mine waste (pH 2.4) has not overwhelmed the ANC of propylitic volcanic rocks (pH 5.8). Sequential leachate laboratory experiments evaluated the concentration of metals liberated during leaching. Leachate concentrations of Cu-Zn-As-Pb for ANC volcanic rock are one-to-three orders of magnitude lower when compared to leached solution from mine waste used in the kinetic reaction vessel test. This finding suggests that mine waste and not ANC rock may generate the majority of leachable metals in a field scenario.
The organic carbon content of naturally reclaimed soils derived from weathering of propylitically-altered andesite was determined in catchments where ANC studies were initiated. Soils were found to have total carbon concentrations (TOC) that exceed global average soil TOC abundances by as much as 1.5 – 5 times. These data support an environmental management system involving use of ANC rocks as part of life-cycle mine planning to reduce post-mine closure acid mitigation measures. Carbon contents of undisturbed soils in mined catchments can possibly be used to validate post-reclamation success and help quantify carbon sequestration for CO2 emission offset trading as carbon markets mature.

Publication Year 2009
Title Acid neutralizing capacity and leachate results for igneous rocks, with associated carbon contents of derived soils, Animas River AML site, Silverton, Colorado
Authors Douglas B. Yager, Mark R. Stanton, LaDonna M. Choate, Burchell
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70156667
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center