Abstract

The paper presents data on two cores from the dispersion train of gold-bearing sulfide tailings in the Novo-Ursk deposit (Kemerovo region, Russia), where organic-bearing mud and natural organic matter are interbedded with cyanide tailings and acid mine drainage (AMD). The study focuses on speciation of Au, Ag and potentially toxic elements (PTE), including Fe, Cu, Zn, As, Se and Pb according to selective sequential extractions. Since large contents of elements are found in water solution and bound to Fe(III) compounds, sulfides and/or organic matter in both cores, the organic material behaves as a natural biogeochemical barrier for potentially toxic elements and precious metals released from AMD. The interaction with organic matter results in biogeochemical sorption and immobilization of elements and is favourable for secondary enrichment in gold and silver. It leads to immobilization of elements that further form new mineral phases or become partitioned between existing phases. On the other hand, very high concentrations of water-soluble and oxidizable species of PTE and Au, which are unstable in surface conditions and may become remobilized when the environment changes, make the organic material less workable and even potentially hazardous. Thus, both positive (secondary enrichment) and negative (pollution) effects should be taken into account in the planning and design of systems for purification, disposal of cyanide tailings and recovery of useful components from tailings using natural organic matter as a geochemical barrier.

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