Natural attenuation of arsenic in the Tinto Santa Rosa acid stream (Iberian Pyritic Belt, SW Spain): The role of iron precipitates

Maria P. Asta, Carlos Ayora, Gabriela Román-Ross, Jordi Cama, Patricia Acero, Andrew G. Gault, John M. Charnock, Fabrizio Bardelli

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    Acid waters and sediments of the Tinto Santa Rosa acid stream (Iberian Pyritic Belt; SW, Spain) were analysed to determine the role of sedimentary phases in the behaviour of arsenic. Aqueous arsenic and iron concentrations decreased markedly from the adit mouth to 300 m downstream indicating iron minerals precipitation as well as arsenic sorption onto these newly-formed phases. This was confirmed by the high arsenic concentrations observed in bed-stream precipitates, which play a major role in controlling arsenic mobility. To unravel the complex nature of the AMD sediments a combination of techniques including X-Ray Diffraction (XRD), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), total solid digestions, X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) were employed. Results showed that (1) arsenic was present predominantly in its pentavalent state; (2) upstream arsenic was sorbed onto the main phase, schwertmannite, whereas downstream it was chiefly associated with goethite and jarosite; and (3) changes in arsenic speciation with depth were observed in the consolidated terrace sediments, where arsenic appeared primarily associated with schwertmannite in the upper part of the terraces, but with goethite at depth. Arsenic mobilization was controlled by sorption onto newly formed precipitates (schwertmannite, goethite and jarosite), causing natural arsenic attenuation. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages11
    JournalChemical Geology
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010


    • Acid mine drainage
    • Arsenic
    • Natural attenuation
    • Speciation


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