Mineralogy and environmental stability of slags from the Tsumeb smelter, Namibia - BRGM - Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières Access content directly
Journal Articles Applied Geochemistry Year : 2009

Mineralogy and environmental stability of slags from the Tsumeb smelter, Namibia


Three types of smelting slags originating from historically different smelting technologies in the Tsumeb area (Namibia) were studied: (i) slags from processing of carbonate/oxide ore in a Cu–Pb smelter (1907–1948), (ii) slags from Cu and Pb smelting of sulphide ores (1963–1970) and (iii) granulated Cu smelting slags (1980–2000). Bulk chemical analyses of slags were combined with detailed mineralogical investigation using X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM/EDS) and electron microprobe (EPMA). The slags are significantly enriched in metals and metalloids: Pb (0.97–18.4 wt.%), Cu (0.49–12.2 wt.%), Zn (2.82–12.09 wt.%), Cd (12–6940 mg/kg), As (930–75,870 mg/kg) and Sb (67–2175 mg/kg). Slags from the oldest technology are composed of primary Ca- and Pb-bearing feldspars, spinels, complex Cu–Fe and Cu–Cr oxides, delafossite–mcconnellite phases and Ca–Pb arsenates. The presence of arsenates indicates that these slags underwent long-term alteration. More recent slags are composed of high-temperature phases: Ca–Fe alumosilicates (olivine, melilite), Pb- and Zn-rich glass, spinel oxides and small sulphide/metallic inclusions embedded in glass. XRD and SEM/EDS were used to study secondary alteration products developed on the surface of slags exposed for decades to weathering on the dumps. Highly soluble complex Cu–Pb–(Ca) arsenates (bayldonite, lammerite, olivenite, lavendulan) associated with litharge and hydrocerussite were detected. To determine the mineralogical and geochemical parameters governing the release of inorganic contaminants from slags, two standardized short-term batch leaching tests (European norm EN 12457 and USEPA TCLP), coupled with speciation-solubility modelling using PHREEQC-2 were performed. Arsenic in the leachate exceeded the EU regulatory limit for hazardous waste materials (2.5 mg/L). The toxicity limits defined by USEPA for the TCLP test were exceeded for Cd, Pb and As. The PHREEQC-2 calculation predicted that complex arsenates are the most important solubility controls for metals and metalloids. Furthermore, these phases can readily dissolve during the rainy season (October to March) and flush significant amounts of As, Pb and Cu into the environment in the vicinity of slag dumps.


Earth Sciences

Dates and versions

hal-00516922 , version 1 (13-09-2010)



Vojtěch Ettler, Zdenek Johan, Bohdan Kribek, Ondrej Sebek, Martin Mihaljevic. Mineralogy and environmental stability of slags from the Tsumeb smelter, Namibia. Applied Geochemistry, 2009, 24 (1), p. 1-15. ⟨10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.10.003⟩. ⟨hal-00516922⟩


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