Mine wastes are unwanted, currently uneconomic materials found at or near mine sites. Volumetrically they are one of the largest waste streams in the European Community and also at a global scale and they often contain high concentrations of elements such as aluminium (Al) that can have severe effects on ecosystems and humans.
The risks posed by exposure to Al are controlled by the reactivity of Al-bearing minerals, which in mine wastes are most commonly the sulphates alunite and basaluminite. In spite of their importance, their dissolution behavior and controls in mine waste environments are not well-known.
The aim of the RASMIM project is to shed light on these issues for contributing to new mine development and to environmental and human health protection. With this goal, dissolution experiments using both natural and synthetic alunite and basaluminite will be carried out. The evolution of solids and solutions during dissolution will be monitored using a wide range of cutting-edge mineralogical and geochemical techniques. These observations will be complemented by the development of atomistic computer simulations for the same processes.
The study will generate important data on the mechanisms, products and controls on the dissolution of these Al sulphates. The project will provide a better understanding of the relative roles on dissolution of factors such as mineral structure and impurities, surface area, solution pH, composition and temperature or secondary mineral formation, among others. On top of that, advances will be made in the understanding of alunite and basaluminite mineral structure and chemistry, their environmental stability and the behaviour of the potentially toxic element aluminium during dissolution. All these advances would contribute to bridge a key knowledge gap in the understanding of important processes for the evolution of mine wastes, which is relevant not only from the scientific point of view but also for the mining industry.
Fields of science
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