Saturday, 10 September 2011

Environmental mineralogy by QEMSCAN®

Resin-impregnated plug recovered from a core taken from the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, UK, showing the impact of historical mining. The image shows pre-mining sediments in purple (mostly marine-derived carbonate sands) overlain by laminated muds (brown/red-purple) containing heavy minerals such as cassiterite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite and galena.
The image is 27 mm diameter scanned at 10 microns X-ray resolution.

The importance of understanding mineralogy related to contaminated soils and sediments has been highlighted for a number of years by researchers  at the Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, UK. Duncan Pirrie, Gavyn Rollinson and Matthew Power have examined samples taken from both estuaries and contaminated land (e.g. Pirrie et al. 2009*).

During these studies automated mineralogy (QEMSCAN®) has successfully been used as a tool to help characterise mineralogy, locate trace phases and determine diagenetic alteration that may lead to bio-availability of heavy metals. In combination with bulk chemistry and mineralogy techniques such as x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray diffraction (XRD), our understanding of environmental mineralogy can be improved and environmental processes be better understood and managed.

* Pirrie, D., Rollinson, G.K., Power, M.R. 2009. Role of automated mineralogy in the assessment of contaminated land. Geoscience in SW England, 12. 162-170.

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