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Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in chrysotile mine tailings of the Woodsreef Asbestos Mine, Australia: Quantitative mineralogy, isotopic fingerprinting and carbonation rates

Oskierski, H.C.ORCID: 0000-0003-0733-6538, Dlugogorski, B.Z. and Jacobsen, G. (2013) Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in chrysotile mine tailings of the Woodsreef Asbestos Mine, Australia: Quantitative mineralogy, isotopic fingerprinting and carbonation rates. Chemical Geology, 358 . pp. 156-169.

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Since closure of the Woodsreef Asbestos Mine, located in the Great Serpentinite Belt (GSB), New South Wales, Australia, extensive carbonate-rich crusts have formed by recessive weathering of fine-grained material on the surface of the tailings pile. A relationship exists between the mode of carbonate occurrence, the mineralogy and the isotopic fingerprint of carbonates from the tailings pile. Vertical carbonate crusts, covering most of the tailings, predominantly consist of the hydrated Mg-carbonate hydromagnesite (Mg5(CO3)4(OH)2·4H2O), which has precipitated from evaporating meteoric waters incorporating atmospheric CO2, as reflected in high δ18O, δ13C and F14C signatures, respectively. Low and variable concentrations of magnesite, dolomite and calcite represent bedrock carbonate, which has formed during alteration of the serpentinite bedrock before mining and is characterised by moderately high δ18O, low δ13C and F14C, a signature typical for ‘weathering-derived’ magnesite deposits in the GSB. The carbonate fraction of deep cement samples, collected from 70 to 120 cm below the surface, representing the bulk tailings material at depth, predominantly consists of pyroaurite (Mg6Fe2(CO3)(OH)16·4H2O) and, despite stable isotope signatures similar to bedrock, contains significant radiocarbon. This indicates that pyroaurite, forming under different conditions as hydromagnesite, may represent an additional trap for atmospheric CO2 in the Woodsreef mine tailings. The distribution of carbonates and quartz, together with the absence of isotopic mixing trends between bedrock carbonate and atmospheric-derived carbonate, strongly indicates that dissolution and re-precipitation of bedrock carbonate is not a dominant process in the Woodsreef tailings. The cations for carbonate formation are instead derived from the dissolution of serpentine minerals (lizardite and chrysotile) and brucite.

The internal standard method and the reference intensity method have been used with X-ray diffraction data to estimate the abundance of the two major carbonate minerals hydromagnesite and pyroaurite, respectively. Considering the formation of hydromagnesite on the outer surface of the tailings pile alone or together with formation of pyroaurite within the tailings pile we conclude that, between 1400 and 70,000 t of atmospheric CO2 have been sequestered in the mine tailings since closure of the mine 29 a ago. Carbonation rates of 27 g C m− 2 y− 1 and 1330 g C m− 2 y− 1 are significantly higher than background rates of CO2 uptake by chemical weathering and demonstrate the potential of passive carbonation of mine tailings as a cost and energy effective alternative for storage of CO2 in carbonate minerals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Copyright: © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
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