Abstract

Arsenic is a very common by-product of the processing of Cu, Au and polymetallic ores worldwide, where the ore is roasted (calcined) to remove volatile elements. In southwest England, a diverse range of As-mineral species occur as efflorescent secondary mineral growths on historic calciner buildings. Gypsum occurs as abundant dendritic growths comprising either interlocking blades or tabular crystals. Ca-arsenate minerals are locally very abundant as white colloform masses. Positively identified Ca arsenates include pharmacolite, weilite and haidingerite. Other secondary minerals include arsenolite, scorodite, bukovskyite and an As-bearing potassium alum, together with a wide variety of unidentified minerals, including an Al-As-S phase and As-rich F-bearing phases. Gypsum contains As concentrations up to ∼7 wt.%. Efflorescent growth at sites exposed to the prevailing weather systems is less abundant than at sheltered sites. This is interpreted as being due to `pressure washing' of exposed sites by driving rain. Successive concentric growths of gypsum and Ca arsenate on masonry are interpreted as being the result of seasonal crystallization.

Understanding both current and historical mining and mineral processing methods is critical in the evaluation of the potential impact on the modern environment. In particular, due to the abundance of As-bearing minerals in a wide range of ore types, many buildings worldwide are potentially significantly contaminated with As even though few are directly related to As production or handling. Characterizing the secondary As mineral species present at mine and mineral processing sites is critical in understanding the potential health risk these sites might pose.

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