Geochemistry of Flooded Underground Mine Workings Influenced by Bacterial Sulfate Reduction

A. J. Roesler, C. H. Gammons, G. K. Druschel, Harry Daniel Oduro, S. R. Poulson

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Unlike the majority of the water in the flooded mine complex of Butte Montana, which includes the highly acidic Berkeley pit lake, groundwater in the flooded West Camp underground mine workings has a circum-neutral pH and contains at least 8 μM aqueous sulfide. This article examines the geochemistry and stable isotope composition of this unusual H2S-rich mine water, and also discusses problems related to the colorimetric analysis of sulfide in waters that contain FeS(aq) cluster compounds. The West Camp mine pool is maintained at a constant elevation by continuous pumping, with discharge water that contains elevated Mn (90 μM), Fe (16 μM), and As (1.3 μM) but otherwise low metal concentrations. Dissolved inorganic carbon in the mine water is in chemical and isotopic equilibrium with rhodochrosite in the mineralized veins. The mine water is under-saturated with mackinawite and amorphous FeS, but is supersaturated with Cu- and Zn-sulfides. However, voltammetry studies show that much of the dissolved sulfide and ferrous iron are present as FeS(aq) cluster molecules: as a result, the free H2S + HS - concentration of the West Camp water is poorly constrained. Concentrations of dissolved sulfide determined by colorimetry were lower than gravimetric assays obtained by AgNO3 addition, implying that the FeS(aq) clusters are not completely extracted by the Methylene Blue reagent. In contrast, the clusters are quantitatively extracted as Ag2S after addition of AgNO3. Isotopic analysis of co-existing aqueous sulfide and sulfate confirms that the sulfide was produced by sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). The H2S-rich mine water is not confined to the immediate vicinity of the extraction well, but is also present in flooded mine shafts up to 3 km away, and in samples bailed from mine shafts at depths up to 300 m below static water level. This illustrates that SRB are well established throughout the southwestern portion of the extensive (>15 km3) Butte flooded mine complex.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)211-235
    JournalAquatic Geochemistry
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


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