Fe-sulphate-rich evaporative mineral precipitates from the Rio Tinto, southwest Spain

T Buckby, S Black, M L Coleman, M E Hodson

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The soluble metal sulphate salts melanterite, rozenite, rhomboclase, szornolnokite, copiapite, coquimbite, hexahydrite and halotrichite, together with gypsum, have been identified, some for the first time oil the banks of the Rio Tinto, SW Spain. Secondary Fe-sulphate minerals call form directly from evaporating acid, sulphate-rich Solutions as a result of pyrite oxidation. Chemical analyses of mixtures of these salt minerals indicate concentrations of Fe (up to 31 wt.%), Mg (up to 4 wt.%), Cu (up to 2 wt.%) and Zn (up to wt.%). These minerals are shown to act as transient storage Cor metals and can store on average up to 10% (9.5 - 11%) and 22% (20-23%) Zn and Cu respectively, of the total discharge of the Rio Tinto during the summer period.

Melanterite and rozenite precipitates at Rio Tinto are only found in association with very acidic drainage waters (pH <1.0) draining directly from pyritic waste piles. Copiapite precipitates abundantly oil the banks of the Rio Tinto by (1) direct evaporation of the river water; or (2) as part of a paragenetic sequence with the inclusion of minor halotrichite, indicating natural dehydration and decomposition. The natural occurrences are comparable with the process of paragenesis from the evaporation of Rio Tinto river water under laboratory experiments resulting in the formation of aluminocopiapite, halotrichite, coquimbite, voltaite and gypsum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-278
Number of pages16
JournalMineralogical magazine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003

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