Chemical and mineralogical changes of waste and tailings from the Murgul Cu deposit (Artvin, NE Turkey): implications for occurrence of acid mine drainage

SAGLAM E. S. , Akcay M.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND POLLUTION RESEARCH, vol.23, no.7, pp.6584-6607, 2016 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier


Being one of the largest copper-producing resources in Turkey, the Murgul deposit has been a source of environmental pollution for very long time. Operated through four open pits with an annual production of about 3 million tons of ore at an average grade of about 0.5 % Cu, the deposit to date has produced an enormous pile of waste (exceeding 100 million tons) with tailings composed of 36 % SiO2, 39 % Fe2O3 and 32 % S, mainly in the form of pyrite and quartz. Waters in the vicinity of the deposit vary from high acid-acid (2.71-3.85) and high-extremely metal rich (34.48-348.12 mg/l in total) in the open pits to near neutral (6.51-7.83) and low metal (14.39-973.52 mu g/l in total) in downstream environments. Despite low metal contents and near neutral pH levels of the latter, their suspended particle loads are extremely high and composed mainly of quartz and clay minerals with highly elevated levels of Fe (3.5 to 24.5 % Fe2O3; 11 % on average) and S (0.5 to 20.6 % S; 7 % on average), showing that Fe is mainly in the form of pyrite and lesser hematite. They also contain high concentrations of As, Au, Ba, Cu, Pb, and Zn. Waters collected along the course of polluted drainages are supersaturated with respect to Fe phases such as goethite, hematite, maghemite, magnetite, schwertmannite and ferrihydrite. Secondary phases such as Fe-sulphates are only found near the pits, but not along the streams due to neutral pH conditions, where pebbles are covered and cemented by Fe-oxides and hydroxides indicating that oxidation of pyrite has taken place especially at times of low water load. It follows, then, that the pyrite-rich sediment load of streams fed by the waste of the Murgul deposit is currently a big threat to the aquatic life and environment and will continue to be so even after the closure of the deposit. In fact, the oxidation will be enhanced and acidity increased due to natural conditions, which necessitates strong remedial actions to be taken.