Microprobe techniques for speciation analysis and geochemical characterization of mine environments: The mercury district of Almadén in Spain

Anna Bernaus, Xavier Gaona, José Maria Esbrí, Pablo Higueras, Gerald Falkenberg, Manuel Valiente

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Abstract

Metallurgic calcines with very high mercury and methylmercury content from the Almadén mining district were analyzed by synchrotron-based microprobe techniques. Information about mercury speciation was obtained by μ-EXAFS (microscopic extended X-ray absorption fine structure) spectroscopy, whereas elemental associations were evaluated by iμ-XRF (microscopic X-ray fluorescence analysis) mapping. Complementary characterization methodologies, including X-ray diffraction (XRD), inductively coupled plasma-optical spectroscopy (ICP-OES), as well as a sequential extraction scheme (SES), were used to predict the potential availability of mercury. Analysis of total metal content revealed extremely high concentrations of mercury and iron (between 7 and 35 and 65-70 g kg-1, respectively) and high zinc concentrations (2.2-2.5 g kg-1), whereas other metals such as copper, nickel, and lead were found at low concentration levels (30-300 mg kg-1). μ-EXAFS results indicate that cinnabar (HgSred) is one of the main species within the studied mercury-rich particles (5-89% of total mercury content), together with more soluble mercury compounds such as Hg 3(SO4)O2 (schuetteite) and HgO (5-55% of total mercury content). Additionally, element-specific μ-XRF maps of selected mercury-rich particles in the studied samples revealed an evident correlation among Hg-Pb-Ni (and S), indicating a possible geochemical linkage of these elements. Correlations were also found among Fe-Mn and Hg, which have been attributed to sorption of mercury onto oxyhydroxides of Fe and Mn. This finding was supported by results from a sequential extraction scheme, where a significant amount of Hg was extracted with the fraction soluble in 6 M HCl. © 2006 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4090-4095
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume40
Issue number13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2006

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