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Metal deportment in Pb-Zn mine wastes from a historic tailings pond, Plombières, East Belgium

Bevandic, S.; Blannin, R.; Gomez Escobar, A.; Bachmann, K.; Frenzel, M.; Pinto, A.; Relvas, J.; Muchez, P.


The exploitation of mine wastes materials as secondary resources requires in-depth mineralogical analyses, with metal deportment being of particular relevance for metal recovery. Using a combination of the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)-based Mineral Liberation Analyser (MLA) and Electron Probe Micro-Analyser (EPMA) methods, the deportment of Zn and Pb in the historic Plombières mine site (East Belgium) was investigated. The mine site comprises four different materials: soil, metallurgical waste, brown and yellow tailings. The integration of the MLA and EPMA data allowed the identification and quantification of Pb- and Zn-bearing phases, including minerals present in low abundances as well as slag phases. Slags and Pb oxide are the main source of Pb in different types of mine waste, followed by cerussite and/or anglesite. Zinc is mainly hosted by slags or by fraipontite, with minor amounts contributed by sphalerite, gahnite, willemite and bannisterite. Uncertainties on the metal deportments were estimated by bootstrap resampling and are typically low. The highest uncertainties are observed when the metal-bearing phases are present in low abundances, which is particularly noticeable in the yellow tailings. Mineral deportment studies should become a standard step in the process of maximising the potential of the mine waste deposits. The integrated approach of MLA-EPMA applied in this paper has proven to be effective for assessing the metal deportment between mineral and slag phases in mine wastes and could be successfully applied for other metals and waste deposits which originated from pyrometallurgical processing of the ore.

Keywords: Geometallurgy; Mine waste; Automated mineralogy; Nugget effect



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