Authors: Huang, L; Fang, Y; Liu, Y; Wu, S; Parry, D

Open access courtesy of:

DOI https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1915_14_Huang

Cite As:
Huang, L, Fang, Y, Liu, Y, Wu, S & Parry, D 2019, 'Ecological engineering to accelerate mineral weathering and transformation underpins sustainable tailings rehabilitation', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 163-174, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1915_14_Huang

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero


Abstract:
Tailings are nothing like soil but are polymineral wastes containing residue economic metals (e.g. Al, Cu, Pb, Zn) and gangue minerals, exhibiting a range of geochemical reactivity in oxygenated and aqueous environments. Early colonisation of soil microorganisms and pioneer plants is inhibited by the bio-toxic geochemical conditions, as well as physical constraints, even with remediation inputs of organic matter and fertilisers. Geochemical conditions of the tailings are governed not only by chemical factors (e.g. acidity/alkalinity, soluble solutes and metal(loid)s) already formed in the soluble phase (i.e. porewater), but also the solid phase of reactive minerals. Tailing minerals undergo in situ weathering and replenish the soluble geochemical factors into the soluble phase over a prolonged and unpredictable period of time (e.g. decades). This makes short-term remediation ineffective in terms of sustaining long-term performance of reconstructed soil systems for vegetation cover. So far, the misperception of tailings as ‘inferior/contaminated soil’ and the adoption of ‘soil remediation’ approaches have largely failed in low-cost and direct phytostabilisation. Despite soil cover, opportunistic microbial bioweathering processes and associated hydrogeochemical dynamics in tailings have resulted in many ineffective conventional cover systems for rehabilitating tailings, such as sulfidic Pb-Zn tailings and red mud. Extensive weathering of these reactive minerals in the top layer of tailings (ca. 50–100 cm) is the prerequisite to hydrogeochemical stabilisation, abatement of acute toxicity, and colonisation of soil microbes and pioneer plants in reconstructed root zones covering the tailings. Bioweathering of reactive minerals (e.g. sulfides in sulfidic tailings, sodalites in red mud) can be readily catalysed by extremophiles (i.e. tolerant archaea, bacteria and fungi) upon provision of suitable conditions, such as moist conditions and relevant substrates (such as organic matter, phosphate). By using ecological engineering approaches combining engineering and geo-microbial ecology principles, the microbial processes would be enhanced by targeted and effective engineering inputs (e.g. water, organics) for achieving rapid exhaustion/depletion of reactive minerals, leading to long-term hydrogeochemical stabilisation (i.e. the completion of fast geochemical reaction phase). This would minimise risks of deterioration and failures of reconstructed soil and plant subsystems, due to minimal abundance of residual reactive minerals in the tailings underneath root zones. The present paper will draw on our recent research progress on sulfidic tailings, Fe-ore tailings and alkaline red mud for the purposes of (1) illustrating the importance of microbial driven weathering and transformation of key minerals in tailings rehabilitation and (2) introducing new technological pathways, that is, ‘in situ soil (or technosol) formation’ and ‘mineral (bio)weathering, cementation and hardpan formation’. This aims to draw research attention onto translational research by adapting ecological engineering principles and practices to deliver cost-effective and feasible technologies for speeding up progressive and sustainable tailings rehabilitation in Australia and other mining countries.

Keywords: tailings rehabilitation, bioweathering, mineral transformation, hydrogeochemical stabilisation

References:
Blowes, DW, Reardon, EJ, Jambor, JL & Cherry, JA 1991, ‘The formation and potential importance of cemented layers in inactive sulfide mine tailings’, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 55, pp. 965–978.
Buchanan, SJ, So, HB, Kopittke, PM & Menzies, NW 2010, ‘Influence of texture in bauxite residues on void ratio, water holding characteristics, and penetration resistance’, Geoderma, vol. 158, pp. 421–426.
Courtney, R, Feeney, E & O’Grady, A 2014, ‘An ecological assessment of rehabilitated bauxite residue’, Ecological Engineering, vol. 73, pp. 373–379.
Courtney, R, Harrington, T & Byrne, KA 2013, ‘Indicators of soil formation in restored bauxite residues’, Ecological Engineering, vol. 58, pp. 63–68.
DeSisto, SL, Jamieson, HE & Parsons, MB 2011, ‘Influence of hardpan layers on arsenic mobility in historical gold mine tailings’, Applied Geochemistry, vol. 26, pp. 2004–2018.
Di Carlo, E, Boullemant, A & Courtney, R 2019, ‘A field assessment of bauxite residue rehabilitation strategies’, Science of The Total Environment, vol. 663, pp. 915–926.
Dold, B & Fontbote, L 2001, ‘Element cycling and secondary mineralogy in porphyry copper tailings as a function of climate, primary mineralogy, and mineral processing’, Journal of Geochemical Exploration, vol. 74, pp. 3–55.
Fortin, D, Davis, B, Southam, G & Beveridge, TJ 1995, ‘Biogeochemical phenomena induced by bacteria within sulfidic mine tailings’, Journal of Industrial Microbiology, vol. 14, pp. 178–185.
Gräfe, M, Power, G & Klauber, C 2011, ‘Bauxite residue issues: III. Alkalinity and associated chemistry’, Hydrometallurgy, vol. 108, pp. 60–79.
Graupner, T, Kassahun, A, Rammlmair, D, Meima, JA, Kock, D, Furche, M, … & Melcher, F 2007, ‘Formation of sequences of cemented layers and hardpans within sulfide-bearing mine tailings (mine district Freiberg, Germany)’, Applied Geochemistry, vol. 22, pp. 2486–2508.
Gravina, M, Grigg, A & Mulligan, DR 2004. Mt Isa mine rehabilitation monitoring and recommendations 2004 assessment – Final report to Mt Isa Mines Limited, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Huang, L, Baumgartl, T & Mulligan, D 2012, ‘Is rhizosphere remediation sufficient for sustainable revegetation of mine tailings?’, Annals of Botany, vol. 110, pp. 223–238.
Huang, L, Baumgartl, T, Zhou, L & Mulligan, RD 2014, The new paradigm for phytostabilising mine wastes – ecologically engineered pedogenesis and functional root zones, Proceedings of Life-of-Mine 2014, Australasian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, Melbourne.
Huang, L & You, F 2018, ‘Ecological engineering of soil-plant systems to rehabilitate bauxite residues: current progress, barriers and innovations’, in A Canfell & M Ladhams (eds), Proceedings of Alumina 2018, the 11th AQW International Conference, AQW Inc., Gladstone, pp. 134–142.
Li, X & Huang, L 2015, ‘Toward a New Paradigm for Tailings Phytostabilization – Nature of the Substrates, Amendment Options and Anthropogenic Pedogenesis’, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 45, pp. 813–839.
Liu, Y, Wu, S, Nguyen, TAH, Southam, G, Chan, T-., Lu, Y-R & Huang, L 2018, ‘Microstructural characteristics of naturally formed hardpan capping sulfidic copper-lead-zinc tailings’, Environmental Pollution, vol. 242, pp. 1500–1509.
Lottermoser, BG 2010, ‘Tailings’, in B Lottermoser (ed.), Mine Wastes, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, pp. 205–241.
Lottermoser, BG & Ashley, PM, 2006, ‘Mobility and retention of trace elements in hardpan-cemented cassiterite tailings, north Queensland, Australia’, Environmental Geology, vol. 50, pp. 835–846.
Lovley, DR, 1987, ‘Organic matter mineralization with the reduction of ferric iron: A review’, Geomicrobiology Journal, vol. 5, pp.  375–399.
Meecham, JR & Bell, LC 1977, ‘Revegetation of alumina refinery wastes. 1. Properties and amelioration of the materials’, Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, vol. 17, pp. 679–688.
Mielke, RE, Pace, DL, Porter, T & Southam, G 2003, ‘A critical stage in the formation of acid mine drainage: Colonization of pyrite by Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans under pH-neutral conditions‘, Geobiology, vol. 1, pp. 81–90.
Moncur, MC, Jambor, JL, Ptacek, CJ & Blowes, DW 2009, ‘Mine drainage from the weathering of sulfide minerals and magnetite’, Applied Geochemistry, vol. 24, pp. 2362–2373.
Mudd, GM 2010, ‘The Environmental sustainability of mining in Australia: key mega-trends and looming constraints’, Resources Policy, vol. 35, pp. 98–115.
Mudd, GM & Jowitt, SM 2018, ‘Global Resource Assessments of Primary Metals: An Optimistic Reality Check’, Natural Resources Research, vol. 27, pp. 229–240.
Northey, SA, Mudd, GM & Werner, TT 2018, ‘Unresolved Complexity in Assessments of Mineral Resource Depletion and Availability’, Natural Resources Research, vol. 27, pp. 241–255.
Power, G, Gräfe, M & Klauber, C 2011, ‘Bauxite residue issues: I. Current management, disposal and storage practices’, Hydrometallurgy, vol. 108, pp. 33–45.
Prior, T, Giurco, D, Mudd, G, Mason, L & Behrisch, J 2012, ‘Resource depletion, peak minerals and the implications for sustainable resource management’, Global Environmental Change, vol. 22, pp. 577–587.
Redwan, M, Rammlmair, D & Meima, JA 2012, ‘Application of mineral liberation analysis in studying micro-sedimentological structures within sulfide mine tailings and their effect on hardpan formation’, Science of The Total Environment, vol. 414, pp. 480–493.
Schad, P 2018, ‘Technosols in the World Reference Base for Soil Resources – history and definitions’, Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, vol. 64, pp. 138–144.
Schippers, A, Breuker, A, Blazejak, A, Bosecker, K, Kock, D & Wright, TL 2010, ‘The biogeochemistry and microbiology of sulfidic mine waste and bioleaching dumps and heaps, and novel Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria’, Hydrometallurgy, vol. 104, pp. 342–350.
Southam, G & Beveridge, TJ 1992, ‘Enumeration of Thiobacilli within pH-Neutral and Acidic Mine Tailings and Their Role in the Development of Secondary Mineral Soil’, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, vol. 58, pp. 1904–1912.
Stanford, K 2016, Red mud – addressing the problem, Aluminium Insider, viewed in 11 July 2018,
Wong, JWC & Ho, G 1994, ‘Sewage sludge as organic ameliorant for revegetation of fine bauxite refining residue’, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 11, pp. 297–309.
Wu, S, Liu, Y, Southam, G, Robertson, L, Chiu, TH, Cross, AT, … & Huang, L 2019, ‘Geochemical and mineralogical constraints in iron ore tailings limit soil formation for direct phytostabilization’, Science of The Total Environment, vol. 651, pp. 192–202.
Xiong, D, Lu, L & Holmes, RJ 2015, ‘Developments in the physical separation of iron ore: magnetic separation’, in L Liming (ed.), Iron Ore, Woodhead Publishing, pp. 283–307.
Xue, S, Zhu, F, Kong, X, Wu, C, Huang, L, Huang, N & Hartley, W 2016, ‘A review of the characterization and revegetation of bauxite residues (Red mud)’, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, vol. 23, pp. 1120–1132.
You, F 2015, ‘Rehabilitation of Organic Carbon and Microbial Community Structure and Functions in Cu-Pb-Zn Mine Tailings for in situ Engineering Technosols’, PhD thesis, The University of Queensland, St Lucia.
You, F, Dalal, R & Huang, L 2018, ‘Initiation of soil formation in weathered sulfidic Cu-Pb-Zn tailings under subtropical and semi-arid climatic conditions’, Chemosphere, vol. 204, pp. 318–326.
You, F, Zhang, L, Ye, J & Huang, L 2019, ‘Microbial decomposition of biomass residues mitigated hydrogeochemical dynamics in strongly alkaline bauxite residues’, Science of The Total Environment, vol. 663, pp. 216–226.
Yuan, M, Xu, ZP, Baumgartl, T & Huang, L 2016, ‘Organic amendment and plant growth improved aggregation in Cu/Pb-Zn tailings’, Soil Science Society Journal of America, vol. 80, pp. 27–37.




© Copyright 2019, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
Please direct any queries or error reports to repository-acg@uwa.edu.au