Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Assessing the influence of reacting pyrite and carbonate minerals on the geochemistry of drainage in the Coeur d'Alene mining district

January 1, 1999

The relative abundance of minerals that react to generate or consume acid in mineralized areas is critical in determining the quality of water draining from such areas. This work examines the fundamental reactions that influence the pH and composition of drainage from mine adits and tailings piles. We construct triangle diagrams that predict stoichiometric relationships between concentrations of dissolved SO4 dissolved Ca and Mg, and either alkalinity or acidity by considering reactions involving the oxidation of pyrite, dissolution of carbonate minerals, and precipitation of iron oxide and iron hydroxysulfate minerals. Drainage data from the Coeur d'Alene mining district are used to test our stoichiometric approach. Comparisons between theoretical predictions and drainage data indicate that the range of pH values in the mining district is due to reacting pyrite to carbonate mineral ratios that range from near 0/1 to 1/1. Calcite and ankerite are the dominant carbonate minerals that buffer the acid produced during pyrite oxidation and ferrihydrite or schwertmannite precipitation.The relative abundance of minerals that react to generate or consume acid in mineralized areas is critical in determining the quality of water draining from such areas. This work examines the fundamental reactions that influence the pH and composition of drainage from mine adits and tailings piles. We construct triangle diagrams that predict stoichiometric relationships between concentrations of dissolved SO4, dissolved Ca and Mg, and either alkalinity or acidity by considering reactions involving the oxidation of pyrite, dissolution of carbonate minerals, and precipitation of iron oxide and iron hydroxysulfate minerals. Drainage data from the Coeur d'Alene mining district are used to test our stoichiometric approach. Comparisons between theoretical predictions and drainage data indicate that the range of pH values in the mining district is due to reacting pyrite to carbonate mineral ratios that range from near 0/1 to 1/1. Calcite and ankerite are the dominant carbonate minerals that buffer the acid produced during pyrite oxidation and ferrihydrite or schwertmannite precipitation.