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Geochemistry of Acid Mine Waters

By
D. Kirk Nordstrom
D. Kirk Nordstrom
1
U.S. Geological Survey, 3215 Marine Street, Boulder, CO 80303-1066
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C.N. Alpers
C.N. Alpers
2
U.S. Geological Survey, Placer Hall, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95879-6129
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Published:
January 01, 1997

Abstract

There are about a dozen major hydrogeochemical processes that can account for the chemical composition of most natural waters. One of these is the oxidation of pyrite, a process at least as important a source of sulfate in natural waters as seawater and sea spray, gypsum dissolution, and atmospheric emissions. The natural process of pyrite oxidation is fundamental to the supergene alteration of ore deposits, the formation of acid-sulfate soils, and the development of acidity and metal mobilization in natural waters. As mineral deposits continue to be mined, and inactive or abandoned mines with their associated waste-rock and tailings piles continue to be exposed to weathering, large concentrations of sulfate and heavy metals will continue to be found in both surface waters and ground waters. Nearly 5 × 1010 tons of mining and mineral processing wastes had been generated in the United States as of 1985 and about 109 tons continue to be generated each year (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1985). A more recent estimate indicates that there may be more than 500,000 inactive or abandoned mine sites in the U.S. (Lyon et al., 1993). Hazardous mine sites in serious need of remediation are probably much fewer but may still range in the thousands. Inventories of mineral resources, mine sites, and their associated environmental hazards are being assembled at various scales by federal and state agencies to better assess the magnitude of the problem.

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Contents

Reviews

The Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits: Part A: Processes, Techniques, and Health Issues Part B: Case Studies and Research Topics

G.S. Plumlee
G.S. Plumlee
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M.J. Logsdon
M.J. Logsdon
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L.F. Filipek
L.F. Filipek
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Society of Economic Geologists
Volume
6
ISBN electronic:
9781629490137
Publication date:
January 01, 1997

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