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The importance of pyritic roof strata in aquatic pollutant release from abandoned mines in a major, oolitic, berthierine-chamosite-siderite iron ore field, Cleveland, UK

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul Younger


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The Cleveland Ironstone Field (NE England) is a major sedimentary iron orefield in which the principal ore minerals are iron silicates (berthierine, chamosite) and carbonates (siderite). The siderite in this area is known to be rich in Mg and Mn in solid solution with Fe. Although this ore assemblage would not normally be expected to give rise to acid mine drainage phenomena, a number of discrete ferruginous mine water discharges (totalling some 6.5 million litres (MI) day -1) have been identified flowing from abandoned underground mine workings and old spoil heaps in the ore field. Some of these discharges are extremely acidic (pH ≥ 3.3), with total Fe reaching 1220 mg l-1. At the point of first emergence to the surface, most of the discharges are so highly charged with dissolved CO2 that they effervesce. Upon degassing, one of the discharges precipitates a ferroan calcite deposit, which is most unusual as a mine water discharge precipitate. All the other discharges precipitate more usual ferrihydrite and goethite 'ochres'. The geochemistry of these waters supports the view that oxidation of pyrite in the roof strata initiates dissolution of siderite in the old workings, releasing CO2, Fe and Mg to solution. This chain of reactions results in these waters having SO42- as their major anion (from pyrite weathering) with Mg as the major cation (except where Fe exceeds Mg in concentration). Two of the near-coastal discharges have Na as the major cation, and elevated Cl concentrations, suggesting a seawater component. However, SO4/Cl ratios suggest that sea water can account for no more than 20% of these waters. Most of the Cleveland mine waters have significant environmental impacts, ranging from ecological damage to receiving water courses to flooding problems caused by the clogging of surface sewers with mine water precipitates. A range of remedial measures are proposed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Younger PL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geological Society Special Publication

Year: 2002

Volume: 198

Issue: 1

Pages: 251-266

ISSN (print): 0305-8719

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Geological Society Publishing House


DOI: 10.1144/GSL.SP.2002.198.01.16


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