Mine-drainage waters and associated precipitates from several active and abandoned lignite mines and mine dumps in the Sokolov Basin, northwestern Czech Republic, were sampled and analysed. The data showed considerable variations of effluent composition and pH that can generally be related to differences in the local microenvironments. Temporal changes such as seasonal fluctuations of precipitation, leading to variations of water infiltration through and runoff over mines and mine dumps, were also observed to noticeably affect effluent composition. These variations have led to a wide range of precipitates, the principal constituents of which are generally one or several of the ferric minerals jarosite, schwertmannite, goethite, ferrihydrite and lepidocrocite.

The present paper consists of two parts: a short review of the genesis and properties of the named minerals, and a study of mine-drainage precipitates formed under different local conditions in various lignite mines and mine dumps of the Sokolov mining district. We show that variations in mine-drainage precipitate mineralogy, such as the presence or absence of specific ‘key’ minerals, can serve as indicators for factors such as the pH and sulphate concentration, and thus – with certain limitations – for the genetic environment during precipitate formation. Such variations in composition are reflected, among other properties, in the precipitate colour, which can therefore be used for a rapid identification and classification – both in the field and by remote sensing – of regions that are potentially prone to acid mine drainage.

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