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Antimony in mine wastes: Geochemistry, mineralogy, microbiology

September 27, 2022

Antimony (Sb) is a valuable mined commodity, used mostly in fire retardants, and considered a critical element. It is also a potential environment hazard classed as a carcinogen. Antimony is concentrated in tailings and waste rock from Sb mines as well as other locations, such as precious metal deposits, where Sb is present in the ore but not recovered. This review covers the aqueous geochemistry, isotope chemistry, mineralogy, and microbiology of Sb in the context of mine waste. The primary minerals stibnite and sulfosalts may release Sb in surface and groundwaters and result in contamination of soils, plants, and river sediments. In some cases, Sb mobility is limited by its adsorption and incorporation into Fe (oxyhydr)oxides. At higher Sb concentrations, precipitation of Sb secondary hosts such as tripuhyite (FeSbO4, relatively insoluble) and brandholzite (Mg[Sb(OH)6]2 · 6H2O, highly soluble) influence Sb concentrations in water associated with mine waste. Although Sb is nonessential to organisms, microorganisms are involved in oxidation, reduction, and methylation processes that can drive biogeochemical transformations. Limited toxicological information about Sb makes it challenging to establish regulations or guidelines limiting the concentration of Sb. Antimony is frequently associated with arsenic in mine waste, and remediation design is often based on the assumption that both metalloids behave in a similar way. However, new research suggests that in some environments, this is not the case, and Sb should be considered based on its unique biogeochemical behavior.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Antimony in mine wastes: Geochemistry, mineralogy, microbiology
DOI 10.5382/econgeo.4937
Authors Anežka Borčinová Radková, Heather E. Jamieson, Kate M. Campbell, Karen A. Hudson-Edwards
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Economic Geology
Index ID 70237037
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center