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Long-term leaching dynamics of lead, zinc, and fluorine from waste rock at the Ivittuut mine in South Greenland.

Project: Research

  • Greenland Institute for Natural Resources, Nuuk, Greenland
  • Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1172 Blindern, N-0318 Oslo, Norway. Electronic address: oystein.wiig@nhm.uio.no.
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The weathering of waste rocks from mining activities can result in the leaching of heavy metal pollutants to the environment and is a global problem. There is a big legacy of abandoned mine sites polluting the environment. Consequently, a better understanding of the weathering processes leading to environmental pollution is key to addressing appropriate mitigation methods to reduce the release of metals into the environment. With the potential future expansion of raw material extraction in the Arctic, it is fundamental to understand better the weathering processes of minerals and the release of metals into the environment under Arctic climatic conditions, both during and post-mining.

This interdisciplinary project will investigate the weathering processes from the abandoned Ivittuut cryolite mine in South Greenland. Through detailed mineralogical investigations of secondary minerals formed by weathering, we will derive chemical reactions and document the potential liberation of metals from mine waste. The focus will be on metals such as lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) and, to date, never investigated the release of fluorine (F) from this significant fluorine-bearing ore deposit.

Questions to be addressed include: Can secondary minerals possibly change the weathering behaviour of the primary minerals? Is F liberated from cryolite an environmental issue? Does the F release affect the release and transport of other metals? To answer some of the questions, in-situ leaching experiments will be used to simulate mineral weathering and dissolution to quantitatively study the release of chemical elements from waste. This will allow us to investigate how stable primary and secondary minerals are under Arctic climatic conditions. The supervisors have different backgrounds that cover the project's interdisciplinary aspects (mineralogy, geochemistry, environmental science).

The goal and relevance of this interdisciplinary project are two-fold. First, it will give us a much better understanding of the chemical reactions during weathering processes at Ivittuut, particularly the release of metals and F. Second, the results will significantly expand the currently very limited knowledge on weathering processes in the Arctic environment and allow us to make recommendations for how mine waste needs to be treated and protected from weathering. This will benefit future projects in Greenland and possibly also current sites such as Maarmorilik and other mine sites in the Arctic in general.
Effective start/end date01/09/202201/09/2025

ID: 271287205