This study describes geochemical barriers that have developed at three different localities in sulfide-rich tailings in the Kemerovo region of Western Siberia, Russia. Iron oxyhydroxides, gypsum, malachite, chalcanthite, goslarite, bianchite, gunningite and copper and zinc chlorides crystallized in the sequence specified at an evaporative barrier around glassy slag produced by the Belovo zinc processing plant. A complex cemented barrier that has developed within the old Salair sulfide tailings contains two well defined layers: an upper layer containing Fe(III) minerals and gypsum as cements in which Pb, As, Mo, Ni and Co have been deposited; and (2) a lower calcite- and gypsum-bearing layer, in which phases containing Zn, Cd and Cu have been deposited. A complex organic – mineral barrier below the Ursk sulfide tailings consists of peaty organic matter, clay minerals and iron oxyhydroxides cemented by gypsum. Elements that have leached from the tailings are present in this barrier in a variety of different forms: Ca and Mn are present as water-soluble species; Cu, Fe and Zn are present as species produced by interaction with organic matter via ion-exchange, metal humate formation and cation bridging in organic-mineral complexes; Pb and As are co-precipitated with and/or adsorbed onto iron oxyhydroxides; gold has been deposited as minute particles of native metal. The mechanisms for the formation of the different geochemical barriers are discussed.