Evolution of pyrite oxidation from a 10-year kinetic leach study: Implications for secondary mineralisation in acid mine drainage control

Rong Fan, Gujie Qian, Yubiao Li, Michael D. Short, Russell C. Schumann, Miao Chen, Roger St C. Smart, Andrea R. Gerson

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Acid rock drainage (ARD) is generated when mineral sulfides, primarily pyrite (FeS2), are exposed to weathering. Pyrite oxidation and dissolution may also result in the precipitation of secondary sulfate minerals, commonly found in weathered mine wastes, that release ‘stored acidity’ on subsequent dissolution. To better understand the release of this stored acidity, a kinetic leach column experiment using a synthetic pyritic (5 wt%) mine waste was conducted for a period of 524 weeks. The first 260 weeks watering/flushing was carried out using Milli-Q water during which the leachate pH decreased from 6.0 to 2.0, pyrite passivation layers present initially were removed and secondary sulfate minerals formed. The rate at which acidity was generated from secondary sulfate mineral dissolution was significantly greater than from pyrite oxidation after the calcite-saturated silicate water treatment during the period from 260 to 440 weeks. This suggests that in weathered pyritic wastes, both the amount of acidity and the rate at which it is released may be dominated by acid sulfate minerals rather than residual pyrite. Importantly, it was found that passivation strategies appropriate for reducing pyrite oxidation rates were not effective for reducing the rate of acid release from secondary mineralisation. Significant amounts of lime-saturated water (with high alkalinity) were required to dissolve the secondary sulfate minerals containing the stored acidity before circum-neutral conditions necessary for pyrite passivation could be achieved. It follows therefore that it is necessary to quantify the amount of stored acidity in secondary minerals so that appropriate remediation and acid management strategies can be designed and implemented to achieve long-term sustainable ARD control and mine closure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120653
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2022


  • Acid rock drainage
  • Dissolution kinetics
  • Kinetic column dissolution
  • Latent acidity
  • Pyrite oxidation
  • Secondary sulfate minerals


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