Mining wastes and calcines from two abandoned mining areas (Valle del Azogue and Bayarque in Almería) have been characterized. In the mining wastes, the dominant mercury phases are cinnabar and elemental mercury in the matrix. In the calcines, however, the dominant mercury phase is elemental mercury bounded to the matrix. Water-leaching experiments were conducted on low-grade stockpiles and calcines in order to simulate the mobilization of mercury by runoff under environmental conditions. The laboratory column-leaching experiments show a possible mobilization of mercury from Hg0 dissolution, colloid transport and a possible dissolution of calomel and other soluble phases in the mine wastes from the Valle del Azogue and Bayarque mines. Equilibrium speciation modeling of Hg, conducted using the numerical code MINTEQ, showed that the theoretical dominant mercury species in the calcine and mining wastes samples are Hg(OH)2, HgCl2, HgClOH and Hg0. In some leachates obtained from the Valle del Azogue mining wastes (sample A06), the high Hg concentrations may indicate the possible dissolution of mineral phases such as calomel and other soluble phases, which are subsaturated. The environmental results indicate a great environmental mobility of mercury, especially during wet episodes associated with intense precipitation events, when there are significative amounts of secondary soluble minerals. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Mine wastes