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Uranium migration and retention during weathering of a granitic waste rock pile

Boekhout, F., Gérard, M., Kanzari, A., Michel, A., Déjeant, A., Galoisy, L., Calas, G., Descostes, M.
Applied geochemistry 2015 v.58 pp. 123-135
adsorption, biotite, coprecipitation, geochemistry, hydroxides, iron, mining, phosphates, rocks, uranium, weathering, France
This study investigates the post-mining evolution of S-type granitic waste rocks around a former uranium mine, Vieilles Sagnes (Haute Vienne, NW Massif Central, France). This mine was operated between 1957 and 1965 in the La Crouzille former world-class uranium mining district and is representative of intra-granitic vein-type deposits. 50years after mine closure and the construction and subsequent re-vegetation of the granitic waste rock pile, we evaluate the environmental evolution of the rock pile, including rock alteration, neo-formation of U-bearing phases during weathering, and U migration. Vertical trenches have been excavated through the rock pile down to an underlying paleo-soil, allowing the investigation of the vertical differentiation of the rock pile and its influence on water pathways, weathering processes and U migration and retention. Arenization dominantly drives liberation of U, by dissolution of uraninite inclusions in the most alterable granitic minerals (i.e. K-feldspar and biotite). Retention of U in the matrix at the base of the waste rock pile, and in the underlying paleo-soil most likely occurs by precipitation of (nano-) uranyl phosphates or a combination of co-precipitation and adsorption reactions of U onto Fe (oxy)hydroxides and/or clay minerals. Even though U-migration was observed, U is retained in stable secondary mineral phases, provided the current conditions will not be modified.