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Quantitative determination of elemental sulfur at the arsenopyrite surface after oxidation by ferric iron: mechanistic implications

Molly M McGuire1, Jillian F Banfield2 and Robert J Hamers1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemistry, 1101 University Ave, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, WI53706, USA

2 Department of Geology and Geophysics, 1215 W. Dayton St, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA

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Geochemical Transactions 2001, 2:25  doi:10.1186/1467-4866-2-25

Published: 24 July 2001


The elemental sulfur formed at the arsenopyrite surface after oxidation by ferric iron was quantitatively measured by extraction in perchloroethylene and subsequent quantitative analysis by HPLC. Reactions with ferric iron in perchloric acid solutions or in sulfuric acid solutions (both at pH = 1 and 42°C, which approximate extreme acid mine drainage conditions) produced elemental sulfur in quantities greater than 50% of the total reacted sulfur. The controversy surrounding the mechanism of the oxidative dissolution of arsenopyrite is discussed in light of these measurements. Based on the observation of greater than 50% production of elemental sulfur, a mechanism by which all the sulfur from the mineral proceeds through thiosulfate can be eliminated as a possible description of the dissolution of arsenopyrite. Instead, it is likely the other constituents of the mineral lattice, Fe and As, are leached out, leaving behind a S0 lattice. Nucleation reactions will then result in the formation of stable S8 rings.