Colloid-borne Uranium in Mine Waters

Colloid-borne Uranium in Mine Waters

Zänker, H.; Richter, W.; Hüttig, G.; Moll, H.

There is ample evidence from groundwaters, river waters, lakes or seawater that colloids influence the transport behavior of contaminants such as As, Pb, Cu, Zn, actinides, fission products, hydrophobic organics etc. Little efforts have been made to elucidate the role of colloids in mine waters. We studied mine waters of very different nature for their colloid-chemistry.
Very stable Fe(III) oxyhydroxy sulfate colloids were found in acid rock drainage (oxic acidic pore waters, pH < 3). The particle size was < 5 nm, the colloid concentration reached the g/l range. Mineralogically, the particles were a mixture of hydronium jarosite and schwertmannite. As and Pb showed a high tendency to adsorb onto these particles. Quite a different type of colloids was found in the oxic "bulk waters" of mines as for instance in tunnel waters (near-neutral pH). The particles were composed of oxyhydroxides of Fe(III) and Al, the particle size was 100 to 300 nm, the particle concentration was about 1 mg/l, the colloids were unstable, i.e. they tended to aggregate. Important colloid-borne contaminants were As, Cu, Zn, Pb, Po. Uranium(VI) adsorption is normally supressed due to the formation of uranyl carbonato complexes in such "bulk waters". The flooding of mines can be regarded as the dilution of acidic pore waters to form "bulk waters". Huge amounts of iron(III) particles with a size of 100 to 300 nm are formed under such conditions. The adsorption of trace elements rises drastically when the pH reaches the near-neutral region. Uranyl adsorption to the iron(III) particles is neither supressed by acidity nor by uranyl carbonate complexation in the pH region 4 to 6. Therefore most of the uranium(VI) is colloid-borne in waters of the transition type; scavenging, colloid aggregation and sedimentation can result in the immobilization of uranium in such waters ("natural attenuation").

Keywords: Uranium; colloids; oxyhydroxides; oxyhydroxy sulfates; iron; aluminum

  • Lecture (Conference)
    International Conference on Uranium Mining and Hydrology (UMH III). Freiberg, 15.09.-21.09.2002

Publ.-Id: 4280