Distribution of arsenic and nickel in uranium mill tailings, Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada

  • Donahue R
  • Hendry M
  • Landine P
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Abstract

The Rabbit Lake U mine in-pit tailings management facility (TMF) is located in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. The tailings body is approximately 425 m long x 300 m wide and 91 m thick at its centre. An investigation of the TMF was performed to collect tailings samples from depth to quantify the distribution of As and Ni in the tailings with respect to ore type and assess the distribution of As and Ni with respect to tailings mineralogy. The tailings body consists of alternating layers of ice, frozen tailings and unfrozen tailings which varied in texture from a slurry to a firm silty sand. The tailings solids are predominately composed of quartz (16-36%), calcium sulphate (0.3-54%) and illite (3 and 14%). Arsenic and Ni concentrations in the tailings show similar patterns with depth which were strongly related to historical changes in As and Ni concentrations in the mill feed. Mineralogy of the ore bodies indicated that As and Ni in the mill feed occurred primarily as 1:1 molar ratio arsenides such as niccolite and gersdorffite. Arsenic and Ni concentrations in the tailings were also measured at a near 1:1 molar ratio. Mill process records showed that an average of 71% of the As in the mill feed was solubilized during leaching. SEM analysis suggested that solubilized As is precipitated as Ca2+, Fe3+and Ni2+arsenates during the neutralization process. Mill records indicated that 17,000 tonnes of As were discharged to the TMF of which approximately 88% was as arsenates and 12% as primary arsenides. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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