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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Use of Alkaline Extraction to Quantify Sulfate Concentration in Oxidized Mine Tailings


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 6, p. 2410-2413
    Received: Nov 21, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): Lionel.Catalan@lakeheadu.ca
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  1. Guohong Yin and
  2. Lionel J. J. Catalan *
  1. Dep. of Chemical Engineering, Lakehead Univ., 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada P7B 5E1


An alkaline extraction method has been developed for the determination of total sulfate in mine tailings containing secondary sulfate minerals formed by the oxidation of primary sulfides. Oxidized tailings were extracted with a 0.3 M NaOH solution at a liquid/solid ratio of 30 at room temperature for 16 h. The sulfate concentration in the extracts was determined by ion chromatography (IC). The coefficient of variation for sulfate determinations ranged from 1.9 to 3.2% for five tailings samples collected at two tailings impoundments. Mineralogical analysis of the tailings by scanning electron microscopy/X-ray energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM/EDS) demonstrated that the extraction of sulfate was complete, with the exception of extremely insoluble barite. The proposed method is simple, yields an accurate yet rapid measurement of sulfate, and involves a safer laboratory operation than conventional methods that make use of strong HCl acid solutions. Moreover, this method allows the specific measurement of sulfate in the extract, whereas conventional methods are generally limited to the measurement of total S by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP–AES) due to the interference of chloride with sulfate in IC.

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