Mineralisation of atmospheric CO2 in hydromagnesite in ultramafic mine tailings – Insights from Mg isotopes

Hans C. Oskierski, Connor C. Turvey, Siobhan A. Wilson, Bogdan Z. Dlugogorski, Mohammednoor Altarawneh, Vasileios Mavromatis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    In this study we present the first Mg isotope data that record the fate of Mg during mineralisation of atmospheric CO2 in ultramafic mine tailings. At the Woodsreef Asbestos Mine, New South Wales, Australia, weathering of ultramafic mine waste sequesters significant amounts of CO2 in hydromagnesite [Mg5(CO3)4(OH)2·4H2O]. Mineralisation of CO2 in above-ground, sub-aerially stored tailings is driven by the infiltration of rainwater dissolving Mg from bedrock minerals present in the tailings. Hydromagnesite, forming on the surface of the tailings, has lower δ26Mg (δ26MgHmgs = −1.48 ± 0.02‰) than the serpentinised harzburgite bedrock (δ26MgSerpentinite = −0.10 ± 0.06‰), the bulk tailings (δ26MgBulk tailings = −0.29 ± 0.03‰) and weathered tailings containing authigenic clay minerals (δ26MgWeathered tailings = +0.28 ± 0.06‰). Dripwater (δ26MgDripwater = −1.79 ± 0.02‰) and co-existing hydromagnesite (δ26MgHmgs = −2.01 ± 0.09‰), forming in a tunnel within the tailings, and nodular bedrock magnesite [MgCO3] (δ26MgMgs = −3.26 ± 0.10‰) have lower δ26Mg than surficial fluid (δ26Mg = −0.36‰) and hydromagnesite. Complete dissolution of source minerals, or formation of Mg-poor products during weathering, is expected to transfer Mg into solution without significant alteration of the Mg isotopic composition. Aqueous geochemical data and modelling of saturation indices, along with Rayleigh distillation and mixing calculations, indicate that the 26Mg-depletion in the drip water, relative to surficial water, is the result of brucite dissolution and/or precipitation of secondary Mg-bearing silicates and cannot be assigned to bedrock magnesite dissolution. Our results show that the main mineral sources of Mg in the tailings (silicate, oxide/hydroxide and carbonate minerals) are isotopically distinct and that the Mg isotopic composition of fluids and thus of the precipitating hydromagnesite reflects both isotopic composition of source minerals and precipitation of Mg-rich secondary phases. The consistent enrichment and depletion of 26Mg in secondary silicates and carbonates, respectively, underpins the use of the presented hydromagnesite and fluid Mg isotopic compositions as a tracer of Mg sources and pathways during CO2 mineralisation in ultramafic rocks.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)191-208
    Number of pages18
    JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    Volume309
    Early online date23 Jun 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2021

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