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Biogeochemical Controls on the Potential for Long-Term Contaminant Leaching from Soils Developing on Historic Coal Mine Spoil...

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Soil Systems
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Coal mine spoil is widespread in US coal mining regions, and the potential long-term leaching of toxic metal(loid)s is a significant and underappreciated issue. This study aimed to determine the flux of contaminants from historic mine coal spoil at a field site located in Appalachian Ohio (USA) and link pore water composition and solid-phase composition to the weathering reaction stages within the soils. The overall mineralogical and microbial community composition indicates that despite very different soil formation pathways, soils developing on historic coal mine spoil and an undisturbed soil are currently dominated by similar mineral weathering reactions. Both soils contained pyrite coated with clays and secondary oxide minerals. However, mine spoil soil contained abundant residual coal, with abundant Fe- and Mn- (oxy)hydroxides. These secondary phases likely control and mitigate trace metal (Cu, Ni, and Zn) transport from the soils. While Mn was highly mobile in Mn-enriched soils, Fe and Al mobility may be more controlled by dissolved organic carbon dynamics than mineral abundance. There is also likely an underappreciated risk of Mn transport from coal mine spoil, and that mine spoil soils could become a major source of metals if local biogeochemical conditions change.