Fluvial Metal Transport Near Sources of Acid Mine-Drainage: Relationships of Soluble, Suspended and Deposited Metal

Stephen Boult
Department of Geography, Manchester University, M13 9PL, UK

Abstract: The Afon Goch (Anglesey, UK) is a short (12 km source to estuary) stream highly contaminated by acid mine drainage (AMD) throughout its length, due to past-mining at the head of the stream. Metal distribution is strongly controlled by the pH, which increases downstream particularly at confluences with two unpolluted tributaries. A pH increase causes precipitation of metals, primarily Fe as hydroxide, thus altering the transport of the metal load, potentially allowing storage of metal within the river as deposited material. However, further work suggests that the controls on whether metal can behave non-conservatively, and therefore the controls on metal distribution, are more complicated than being purely pH dependent. This is because much of the Fe load, even at the low pH at the head of the stream, is not soluble Fe3+ but colloidal Fe hydroxide. Consequently, coagulation is a requisite intermediate step between precipitation and potential for settling. It is possible that in reaches of the stream away from tributary confluences, the process of coagulation is the predominant influence on metal distribution. Furthermore, because much of the metal load in the water column is very fine, its deposition results in a sediment in which the metals can be intimately associated with a biofilm at the sediment/water interface. Such associations change both deposition and erosion characteristics of the sediment and have implications for subsequent diagenesis and mineral morphology.

Keywords: acid mine-drainage • metal transport • Afon Goch • Anglesey • Wales

Mineralogical Magazine; April 1996 v. 60; no. 399; p. 325-335; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1996.060.399.07
© 1996, The Mineralogical Society
Mineralogical Society (www.minersoc.org)