Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Characterization of rock samples and mineralogical controls on leachates

January 1, 2009

Rocks associated with coal beds typically include shale, sandstone, and (or) limestone. In addition to common rock-forming minerals, all of these rock types may contain sulfide and sulfate minerals, various carbonate minerals, and organic material. These different minerals have inherently different solubility characteristics, as well as different acid-generating or acid-neutralizing potentials. The abundance and composition of sulfur- and carbonate-bearing minerals are of particular interest in interpreting the leaching column data because (1) pyrite and carbonate minerals are the primary controls on the acid-base account of a sample, (2) these minerals incorporate trace metals that can be released during weathering, and (3) these minerals readily react during weathering due to mineral dissolution and oxidation of iron.

Rock samples were collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP) from five different sites to assess the draft standardized leaching column method (ADTI-WP2) for the prediction of weathering rates and water quality at coal mines. Samples were sent to USGS laboratories for mineralogical characterization and to ActLabs for chemical analysis. The samples represent a variety of rock types (shales, sandstones, and coal refuse) that are typical of coal overburden in the eastern United States. These particular samples were chosen for testing the weathering protocols because they represent a range of geochemical and lithologic characteristics, sulfur contents, and acid-base accounting characteristics (Hornberger et al., 2003). The rocks contain variable amounts of pyrite and carbonate minerals and vary in texture.

This chapter includes bulk rock chemical data and detailed mineralogical and textural data for unweathered starting materials used in the interlaboratory validation study, and for two samples used in the early phases of leaching column tests (Wadesville Sandstone, Leechburg Coal Refuse). We also characterize some of the post-weathering rock samples, report trace-element content in leachate, and discuss mineralogical controls on leachate quality based on data from one of the participating laboratories. Table 5.1 lists the samples described in this chapter, the sample numbers, and comments on the characteristics of each lithology. Sample locations are plotted in Figure 5.1. Chapters 2 and 3 describe the sample locations, sample preparation protocols, ABA characteristics, and rationale for selection of rock samples for testing. Microprobe data for pyrite and carbonate minerals are tabulated in Appendix 5.1. Leachate data, along with a series of graphs showing concentration and cumulative transport trends, for the laboratory data discussed in this chapter are included as Excel spreadsheets in Appendices 5.2 and 5.3. Leach column data for the interlaboratory study are evaluated and interpreted in Chapters 7 -11.

Publication Year 2009
Title Characterization of rock samples and mineralogical controls on leachates
Authors Jane M. Hammarstrom, Charles A. Cravotta, Daniel G. Galeone, John C. Jackson, Frank T. Dulong
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Index ID 70192959
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center