Origin of high manganese concentrations in coal mine drainage, eastern Tennessee


The origin of high dissolved manganese concentrations in slightly acidic mine runoff from a surface mine operated by the Cumberland Coal Company in eastern Tennessee was investigated. Mineralogical and chemical analyses were performed on 31 samples of sandstone, shale, coal, and mudstone from the mine to identify the sources and stratigraphic distribution of high extractable manganese contents in the spoil materials. The samples were analyzed for their bulk mineral content by X-ray diffraction, net acid-base potential, and reaction to 2 or 4 chemical extraction procedures. A limited number of samples were analyzed for petrographic characteristics, clay mineral composition by X-ray diffraction, and mineral compositions by electron microprobe. Analysis of the data and consideration of the geochemical conditions at the mine were used to identify probable sources for the high extractable manganese contents. The results indicate 2 prominent, independent sources of extractable manganese. The first source is exchangeable manganese on clay minerals (mainly illite + muscovite and chlorite) and is concentrated in shale and mudstone rock types. The second and more significant source is manganese in siderite concretions and cement, mainly in shale and mudstone. Comparison to other coal-bearing strata indicates that manganese-rich siderite is common in fresh- to brackish-water subaqueous sediments that overlie coal. This is especially the case for coals formed in wet, tropical environments. Ratios of manganese to calcium and magnesium in mine runoff suggest that manganese from siderite is the major cause of the high dissolved manganese contents. A conceptual model is developed to explain the high manganese contents of the mine runoff. Oxidation of pyrite creates mildly acidic waters that are subsequently partially neutralized by reaction with impure siderite. Solubilized manganese remains dissolved in the slightly acidic runoff water, whereas dissolved iron precipitates as ferric hydroxide or goethite. Consideration of data from other coal mining regions suggests that similar reactions involving impure siderite may be responsible for high manganese concentrations in acidic to slightly acidic mine runoff. Geochemical reaction path modeling of pyrite and impure siderite with rainwater illustrate how resulting water compositions may vary depending on pyrite to siderite ratios in spoil materials. Spoil water compositions from the Cumberland mine are largely consistent with reaction of pyrite and impure siderite in proportions observed in the sediments; however, deviations may be explained by minor mixing with waters that reacted only with impure siderite or clay mineral exchange reactions. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Journal of Geochemical Exploration