Generation of Acid Mine Lakes Associated with Abandoned Coal Mines in Northwest Turkey

Yucel D., Balci N., Baba A.

ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION AND TOXICOLOGY, vol.70, no.4, pp.757-782, 2016 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier


A total of five acid mine lakes (AMLs) located in northwest Turkey were investigated using combined isotope, molecular, and geochemical techniques to identify geochemical processes controlling and promoting acid formation. All of the investigated lakes showed typical characteristics of an AML with low pH (2.59-3.79) and high electrical conductivity values (1040-6430 mu S/cm), in addition to high sulfate (594-5370 mg/l) and metal (aluminum [Al], iron [Fe], manganese [Mn], nickel [Ni], and zinc [Zn]) concentrations. Geochemical and isotope results showed that the acid-generation mechanism and source of sulfate in the lakes can change and depends on the age of the lakes. In the relatively older lakes (AMLs 1 through 3), biogeochemical Fe cycles seem to be the dominant process controlling metal concentration and pH of the water unlike in the younger lakes (AMLs 4 and 5). Bacterial species determined in an older lake (AML 2) indicate that biological oxidation and reduction of Fe and S are the dominant processes in the lakes. Furthermore, O and S isotopes of sulfate indicate that sulfate in the older mine lakes may be a product of much more complex oxidation/dissolution reactions. However, the major source of sulfate in the younger mine lakes is in situ pyrite oxidation catalyzed by Fe(III) produced by way of oxidation of Fe(II). Consistent with this, insignificant fractionation between delta(34) and delta(34) values indicated that the oxidation of pyrite, along with dissolution and precipitation reactions of Fe(III) minerals, is the main reason for acid formation in the region. Overall, the results showed that acid generation during early stage formation of an AML associated with pyrite-rich mine waste is primarily controlled by the oxidation of pyrite with Fe cycles becoming the dominant processes regulating pH and metal cycles in the later stages of mine lake development.