Zinc and nickel removal in limestone based treatment of acid mine drainage: The relative role of adsorption and co-precipitation

Andrew Miller, Thomas Wildeman, Linda Figueroa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Mining influenced water may contain high metal and sulfate loads, and have low pH (acid mine drainage). Removal of these metals prior to environmental discharge is critical to maintain ecosystem vitality. Limestone based passive treatment systems are commonly used for pH neutralization. The same conditions that lead to pH neutralization may also remove a substantial amount of metals from solution, but the connection between treatment conditions and metal removal are not well understood. In this study, zinc and nickel removals are quantified in batch reactor simulated limestone treatment of acid mine drainage. The resulting solid phase is characterized with a sequential extraction procedure, and the removals are interpreted using surface complexation and surface precipitation models. Zinc and nickel removals are closely linked to the initial iron concentration in the mine water, but are also affected by pH, alkalinity, calcium and sulfate concentrations. The surface complexation model was based on literature descriptions of hydrous ferric oxide. In order to obtain a sufficient fit to the data, the surface site density was increased to an unrealistically high value. Uptake data was also fit to an existing surface precipitation model. The values used are similar to those found in previous studies. Both models indicate that adsorption is not the dominant removal process in the treatment system. Using adsorption only models will generally underpredict metal removals within limestone based treatment systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Geochemistry
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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