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, 369 (1-3), 307-32

A Review of Acidity Generation and Consumption in Acidic Coal Mine Lakes and Their Watersheds


A Review of Acidity Generation and Consumption in Acidic Coal Mine Lakes and Their Watersheds

Christian Blodau. Sci Total Environ.


Lakes developing in former coal mine pits are often characterized by high concentrations of sulfate and iron and low pH. The review focuses on the causes for and fate of acidity in these lakes and their watersheds. Acidification is primarily caused by the generation of ferrous iron bearing and mineralized groundwater, transport through the groundwater-surface water interface, and subsequent iron oxidation and precipitation. Rates of acidity generation in mine tailings and dumps, and surface water are often similar (1 to >10 mol m(-2) yr(-1)). Weathering processes, however, often suffice to buffer groundwaters to only moderately acidic or neutral pH, depending on the suite of minerals present. In mine lakes, the acidity balance is further influenced by proton release from transformation of metastable iron hydroxysulfate minerals to goethite, and proton and ferrous iron sequestration by burial of iron sulfides and carbonates in sediments. These processes mostly cannot compensate acidity loading from the watershed, though. A master variable for almost all processes is the pH: rates of pyrite oxidation, ferrous iron oxidation, mineral dissolution, iron precipitation, iron hydroxide transformation, and iron and sulfate reduction are strongly pH dependent. While the principle mechanism of acidity generation and consumption and several controls are mostly understood, this cannot be said about the fate of acidity on larger spatial and temporal scales. Little is also known about critical loads and the internal regulation of biogeochemical iron, sulfur, and carbon cycling in acidic mine lakes.

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