durability and leaching behavior of mine tailings-based geopolymer bricks
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ic/spectroscopic techniques, SEM, XRD and FTIR, are also employed to investi-
form to and deposited in storage impoundments. Storage of MT insuch impoundments leads to occupation of large areas of land,costly construction and maintenance, and potential environmentaland ecological risks. MT can cause air pollution due to dust emis-sions resulted from surface erosion. MT can also pollute surfaceand underground water due to the leaching of heavy metals. Thesulde minerals in MT such as pyrite (FeS2), pyrrhotite (Fe1xS),
of air and water,ides suchage (AMDof heavy
such as Cd, As and Cu . AMD has caused serious contamof surface and underground waters in the United States .fore, it is vital to take measures to reduce the risk of environmentalcontamination by MT.
Generally, there are three methods to reduce the potential envi-ronmental hazards imposed by MT: (1) isolation of MT, (2) chem-ical stabilization of MT, and (3) a combination of these twomethods [2,4]. The isolation techniques include containment ofMT from the surrounding environment such as capping the tailingsimpoundment surface. This can be achieved by designing and
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 520 6260532; fax: +1 520 6212550.
Construction and Building Materials 44 (2013) 743750
Contents lists available at
evE-mail address: email@example.com (L. Zhang).1. Introduction
Mine tailings (MT) are a major waste material generated bymining operations. In current practice, MT are transported in slurry
and chalcocite (Cu2S) oxidize in the presenceyielding sulphuric acid and releasing metallic ox. This phenomenon, known as acid mine drainto the drop of pH and results in further leaching0950-0618/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2013.03.075as FeO), leadsmetalsinationThere-GeopolymerBricksDurabilityHeavy metalsLeaching kinetics
gate the change in microstructure and phase composition of MT-based geopolymer bricks after immer-sion in the solutions. To describe the leaching behavior of MT-based geopolymer bricks, the rst orderreaction/diffusion model (FRDM) is used to analyze the leaching test data. The results indicate thatalthough there is a substantial strength loss after immersion in pH = 4 and 7 solutions, the water absorp-tion and weight loss are small. The strength loss is mainly due to the dissolution of geopolymer gels asindicated by the microscopic/spectroscopic analysis results. The leaching analyses show that the heavymetals are effectively immobilized in the MT-based geopolymer bricks, which is attributed to the incor-poration of heavy metals in the geopolymer network. The FRDM can satisfactorily describe the leachingbehavior of heavy metals in the MT-based geopolymer bricks and the analysis results indicate that thesolubility or reaction rate is an important factor controlling the leaching behavior.
2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Keywords:Mine tailings
periods of time. Microscop Systematically studied durability and l Immersion in pH = 4 and 7 solutions le Immersion in pH = 4 and 7 solutions le MT-based geopolymer bricks effectivel FRDM can satisfactorily describe the le
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:Received 12 December 2012Received in revised form 19 March 2013Accepted 22 March 2013Available online 24 April 2013nics, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
behavior of MT-based geopolymer bricks.substantial strength loss.minor water absorption and weight loss.bilize the heavy metals in MT.behavior of heavy metals.
a b s t r a c t
Disposal of mine tailings (MT) in impoundments may have adverse environmental impacts such as airpollution from dust emissions and release of heavy metals to surface and underground water. Geopoly-merization as an environmentally-friendly and sustainable method has been used to stabilize MT so thatthey can be used as construction material. In this paper, the durability and leaching behavior of MT-basedgeopolymer bricks are studied by measuring unconned compression strength (UCS), water absorption,weight loss, and concentration of heavy metals after immersion in pH = 4 and 7 solutions for differentSaeed Ahmari, Lianyang Zhang Durability and leaching behavior of minebricks
journal homepage: www.elsailings-based geopolymer
ier .com/locate /conbui ldmat
company in Tucson, Arizona. Table 1 shows the chemical composition of the MT.It can be seen that the MT consist of mainly silica and alumina with substantialamount of calcium and iron. Grain size distribution analysis was performed onthe MT using mechanical sieving and hydrometer analysis following ASTM D6913and ASTM D422. Fig. 1 shows the particle size distribution curve. The mean particlesize is around 120 lm with 36% particles passing No. 200 (75 lm) sieve. The spe-cic gravity of the MT particles is 2.83.
The sodium hydroxide (NaOH) akes were obtained from Alfa Aesar Companyin Ward Hill, Massachusetts. The sodium hydroxide solution is prepared by dissolv-ing the sodium hydroxide akes in de-ionized water. The nitric acid (HNO3) wasmanufactured by BDH and supplied by VWR.
2.2. Preparation of brick samples
First, the MT were mixed with NaOH solution. The NaOH solution was preparedby adding NaOH akes to de-ionized water and stirring for at least ve minutes.Due to the generated heat, enough time was allowed for the solution to cool downto room temperature before it was used. The NaOH solution was slowly added tothe dry MT and mixed for 10 min to ensure the homogeneity of the mixture. Thegenerated mixture exhibited varying consistency depending on the initial watercontent. The mixtures consistency varied from semi-dry to semi-paste as the watercontent increased from 8% to 18%. The mixture was then placed in Harvard minia-ture compaction cylindrical molds of 33.4 mm diameter and 72.5 mm height withminor compaction. The compacted specimens were compressed with an ELE TriFlex 2 loading machine at different loading rates to ensure that the duration toreach the specied forming pressure was about 10 min for all the specimens. Aftercompression, the specimens were de-molded and placed uncovered in an oven forcuring until tested.
Table 1Chemical composition (wt.%) of mine tailings.
Chemical compound Contenta (%) Standard deviation (%)
SiO2 64.8 2.08Al2O3 7.08 0.70Fe2O3 4.33 0.71CaO 7.52 1.06MgO 4.06 0.93SO3 1.66 0.31Na2O 0.90 0.23K2O 3.26 0.42
d Building Materials 44 (2013) 743750constructing a closure system similar to that used for landlls .For chemical stabilization, chemicals or cementitious materials areadded to immobilize the heavy metals in MT through physicalencapsulation and/or chemical reactions. In current practice, poz-zolanic materials such as cement and lime are commonly used tostabilize MT [1,611] although other materials such as y ash, slagand aluminum are also studied by researchers [12,13]. The isola-tion and stabilization techniques can also be used simultaneously.For example, the tailings surface can be treated by binders such asorganic polymers, water glass and Portland cement to improve sur-face erosion resistance and reduce water inltration, and, in themeantime, the hardened surface acts as a capping system whichisolates the underlying tailings from the surrounding environment.
Since the stabilization of MT based on the reaction with calciumhas a number of limitations, such as inferior mechanical properties,low acid resistance, poor immobilization of contaminants at highconcentrations, and more importantly high-energy usage andgreenhouse gas emissions related to production of Portland cement[15,16], researchers have studied other stabilization methods tostabilize MT [1,13,17,18]. Of these different methods, geopolymer-ization is a promising one to effectively stabilize MT in an econom-ical and environmentally-friendly way. In this method, geopolymergels are produced on the MT particle surface and the newly formedgels bind the particles together. Geopolymer is an amorphous bin-der with a polymeric network structure consisting of repeatingunits of ASiAOAAlAOA and is formed by alkali activation of silicaand alumina containing materials at high pH and room or slightlyelevated temperature . Geopolymer binder offers superiormechanical properties, excellent durability, and effective immobi-lization of heavy metals . An extensive research has beenconducted on y ash-, slag-, and metakaolin-based geopolymers[21,24,2832] and MT-based geopolymer has recently attractedattention of researchers worldwide [18,22,3338]. Van Jaarsveldet al.  studied the feasibility of using MT-based geopolymerpaste as a cover system for tailings dam. The results indicated thaty ash and as much as 6570% MT can be used to produce geopoly-meric material suitable for capping mine tailings. Pacheco-Torgalet al.  evaluated the durability and environmental performanceof calcined tungsten MT-based geopolymer (CTMTG) and reportedthat the CTMTG binder exhibits better durability than Portlandcement binder and the concentrations of released heavy metalsare all below the DIN limits. Giannopoulou and Panias  showedthat the compressive strength of mixed y ash and MT-based geo-polymer increases with the y ash content and the concentrationsof leached heavy metals in neutral and acidic solutions are all be-low the Greek Standard limits. Silva et al.  studied the stabilityof CTMTG immersed in water and reported disintegration after acertain period of time mainly due to decient geopolymericreaction.
Ahmari and Zhang  studied the pr