METAL REMOVAL MECHANISMS DURING THE TREATMENT OF HIGHLY CONTAMINATED ACID MINE DRAINAGE USING PASSIVE BIOREACTORS, LIMESTONE DRAINS, AND MULTI-STEP SYSTEMS: A SHORT REVIEW

World Mining Congress
Optimizing the long-term efficiency of passive systems for the treatment of highly contaminated acid mine drainage (AMD) is still a challenging issue. The optimization lies, among others, on improving the understanding and quantification of metal removal mechanisms in order to predict and enhance the stability of neo-formed minerals in secondary phases. Sorption, and precipitation as oxides-hydroxides, carbonates and bio-sulfides are likely the most important metal removal mechanisms involved in passive biotreatment of both slightly and highly contaminated AMD. In the same time, the preferred mechanism is precipitation of metal sulfides that are more stable and less pH dependent than carbonates and oxides-hydroxides. However, results of relatively recent research studies performed at laboratory scale showed that sulfides accounted only for up to 15% of total metals removed in passive bioreactors treating highly contaminated AMD dominated by iron (around 500 mg/L). Several approaches were used in the aforementioned studies to understand and quantify metal removal mechanisms in spent reactive mixtures collected from long-term (12-15 months) operating column bioreactors. These included: thermodynamic equilibrium modeling and various chemical extractions and mineralogical analyses (such as single and sequential extractions, acid volatile sulfides-simultaneously extracted metals determination, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and thermo-gravimetric analysis). The large proportion of metals (85%) removed by sorption and precipitation as oxides-hydroxides and carbonates suggests a relatively high mobility of the neoformed minerals, especially in low pH conditions. However, no data is available on the long-term stability of spent reactive mixtures and, on the implications for the sustainable management of this type of solid waste. Lately there is almost a consensus that the efficiency of highly contaminated AMD treatment is warranted by the use of multi-step passive systems, including both chemical and biological units, installed sequentially.
Keywords: metals; Treatment; Systems; Removal; AMD; Bioreactors; pH; acid mine drainage; Water;
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