Elemental and mineral inventory of tailing impoundments near Pezinok, Slovakia and possible courses of action for their remediation
An effective remediation strategy for a polluted site should take the absolute amount of the pollutant(s) into account. Here, we present an elemental budget for As, Sb and Fe in two tailing impoundments of the former Sb-Au deposit near Pezinok, Slovakia. The two impoundments contain 5,740×103 kg As, 6,360×103 kg Sb and 50,105×103 kg Fe. An estimated total Au content in the impoundments is 132 kg. The most abundant minerals in the tailings are quartz, illite, and chlorite. The content of carbonates in the tailings is 3.5-10.5 wt% calcite equivalent and we estimate that the carbonates are sufficiently abundant to buffer the pH at circumneutral values, up to the point when all pyrite decomposes. The possible courses of action are i) do nothing, ii) build an active barrier to capture the released As and Sb, iii) isolate the impoundments from rain and ground water and iv) use the impoundments as a source of Sb and redeposit the waste in a safer form. The simplest approach is to do nothing, which seems to be the most likely course of events, given the current economic, political and societal state of the Slovak Republic. Although this action costs nothing in the short term, it may cause significant damage to the environment, especially to the alluvial sediments and associated water resources in the long term.