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J Hazard Mater. 2008 Feb 11;150(3):747-53. Epub 2007 May 13.

Characterization and treatment of artisanal gold mine tailings.

Author information

1
Department of Materials Science and Technology, Federal University of Bahia, C.P. 6974, Salvador, BA 40810-971, Brazil. lelo@ufba.br

Abstract

The solid waste generated by artisanal gold mining, with high mercury and gold contents, can be found in several areas in the South America. The present study focused on the tailings of an artisanal gold mine area located in the Brazilian northeastern. Samples of the mine tailings were taken and used to perform a physical and chemical characterization study using X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, neutron activation, X-ray fluorescence, induced coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, among others analytical methods. The results indicate that the material is composed mainly by quartz and goethite, the characteristic size of the particles (d(50)) is about 150 microm, and the density is close of that of quartz. The main constituents are silicon, iron, and aluminum. The tailings gold content is of about 1.8 mg/kg and the mercury content is of about 10 mg/kg. A remarkable feature of this solid waste is that the gold and mercury are both concentrated in both the fine and the coarse particles, but not in particles of intermediary size. Leaching studies indicated that the tailings are stable in weak organic acids, but soluble in alkaline and aired cyanide solutions, in which 89% of gold and 100% of mercury are extracted in 24 h. Electroleaching experiments, performed using sodium chloride as electrolyte, indicated that mercury and gold are extracted simultaneously and the recovery of both metals can be as high as 70% in 4 h. In addition, chromium, nickel, and lead are found in relatively large amounts in the solution, which indicate an effectively action of the electroleaching method to clean up solid wastes contaminated with metals.

PMID:
17583425
DOI:
10.1016/j.jhazmat.2007.05.028
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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