Arsenic-rich acid mine water with extreme arsenic concentration: mineralogy, geochemistry, microbiology, and environmental implications

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Dec 2;48(23):13685-93. doi: 10.1021/es5024916. Epub 2014 Nov 14.


Extremely arsenic-rich acid mine waters have developed by weathering of native arsenic in a sulfide-poor environment on the 10th level of the Svornost mine in Jáchymov (Czech Republic). Arsenic rapidly oxidizes to arsenolite (As2O3), and there are droplets of liquid on the arsenolite crust with high As concentration (80,000-130,000 mg·L(-1)), pH close to 0, and density of 1.65 g·cm(-1). According to the X-ray absorption spectroscopy on the frozen droplets, most of the arsenic is As(III) and iron is fully oxidized to Fe(III). The EXAFS spectra on the As K edge can be interpreted in terms of arsenic polymerization in the aqueous solution. The secondary mineral that precipitates in the droplets is kaatialaite [Fe(3+)(H2AsO4)3·5H2O]. Other unusual minerals associated with the arsenic lens are běhounekite [U(4+)(SO4)2·4H2O], štěpite [U(4+)(AsO3OH)2·4H2O], vysokýite [U(4+)[AsO2(OH)2]4·4H2O], and an unnamed phase (H3O)(+)2(UO2)2(AsO4)2·nH2O. The extremely low cell densities and low microbial biomass have led to insufficient amounts of DNA for downstream polymerase chain reaction amplification and clone library construction. We were able to isolate microorganisms on oligotrophic media with pH ∼ 1.5 supplemented with up to 30 mM As(III). These microorganisms were adapted to highly oligotrophic conditions which disabled long-term culturing under laboratory conditions. The extreme conditions make this environment unfavorable for intensive microbial colonization, but our first results show that certain microorganisms can adapt even to these harsh conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Arsenic Trioxide
  • Arsenicals / chemistry
  • Czech Republic
  • Environment
  • Ferric Compounds / analysis
  • Geology
  • Groundwater / chemistry
  • Groundwater / microbiology
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Minerals / analysis
  • Minerals / chemistry
  • Mining*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxides / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry
  • X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy


  • Arsenicals
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Minerals
  • Oxides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Iron
  • Arsenic
  • Arsenic Trioxide