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Behaviour of radionuclides during microbially-induced mining of nickel at Talvivaara, Eastern Finland

Tuovinen, Hanna, Pohjolainen, Esa, Lempinen, Janne, Vesterbacka, Daniela, Read, David, Solatie, Dina and Lehto, Jukka (2016) Behaviour of radionuclides during microbially-induced mining of nickel at Talvivaara, Eastern Finland Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 151. pp. 105-113.

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The Talvivaara mine in Eastern Finland utilizes microbe-induced heap leaching to recover nickel and other valuable metals (Zn, Cu, Co) from a black schist ore. In addition to the target metals, the ore contains uranium at a concentration of 17 mg/kg, incorporated as uraninite (UO2). Uranium oxidizes from the U(IV) to U(VI) state during leaching and dissolves as the uranyl ion (UO22+) in the acidic pregnant leach solution. Mobilisation of uranium has caused sufficient concern that plans have been developed for uranium recovery. The aim of this study is to generate new data leading to a better understanding of the fate of its radiotoxic daughter nuclides, primarily 226Ra, 210Pb and 210Po, in the mining process. It is shown that uranium daughters mostly remain in the heaps during the leaching process and are associated with secondary minerals, including jarosite, goethite and gypsum. Thorium and progeny (232Th plus 228Th, 228Ra) are also mainly retained. High sulphate concentrations in the acidic solutions limit the solubility of radium by incorporation in the crystal lattices of precipitated secondary sulphates. Electron probe microanalysis shows that goethite in the heaps is uraniferous, resulting from the adsorption of U(VI). After recovery of target metals, the pregnant leach solution is neutralized to further remove metal contaminants and the resulting slurries stored in a bunded tailings pond. The activity concentrations of thorium, radium, lead and polonium isotopes are generally low in the pond owing to prior retention by secondary minerals in the heaps. However, 238U activity concentrations range up to 3375 Bq/kg, which exceeds the permitted value (1000 Bq/kg) for natural radionuclides of the 238U series.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Chemistry
Authors :
Tuovinen, Hanna
Pohjolainen, Esa
Lempinen, Janne
Vesterbacka, Daniela
Solatie, Dina
Lehto, Jukka
Date : 8 October 2016
DOI : 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2015.09.022
Uncontrolled Keywords : Talvivaara; Heap leaching; Radionuclides; Metals recovery; Mobilization
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 24 Sep 2018 13:23
Last Modified : 24 Sep 2018 13:23

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