Processes affecting the chemical composition of Blue Lake, an alluvial gold-mine pit lake in New Zealand
Barker, SLL and Kim, JP and Craw, D and Frew, RD and Hunter, KA, Processes affecting the chemical composition of Blue Lake, an alluvial gold-mine pit lake in New Zealand, Marine and Freshwater Research, 55 pp. 1-11. ISSN 1323-1650 (2004) [Refereed Article]
Blue Lake is an abandoned, water-filled alluvial gold-mine pit in Central Otago, New Zealand. Alluvial gold mining is generally considered to be chemically benign, unless mercury is added to assist gold separation. The major element, trace metal and isotopic composition of the pit lake was compared to nearby, unaffected streams. Blue Lake was found to be enriched in the major cations, with levels that were 2–5 times higher than in unaffected streams. Furthermore, Cu, Ni and Zn concentrations exceeded 10 nmol L–1 in Blue Lake; these levels were 2–30 times higher than those in nearby, unaffected streams. Processes affecting the lake’s characteristics include evaporative concentration, and the oxidation and dissolution of locally derived sulfide and sulfate minerals. Localised acidification in surface and ground waters around the lake leads to the mobilisation of Zn and Ni, resulting in lake waters being strongly enriched in these trace metals (concentrations greater than 40 nmol L–1), whereas surrounding stream waters have much lower Ni and Zn concentrations (less than 5 nmol L–1). Ongoing evaporative concentration, and the continuing mobilisation of trace metals, implies that metal enrichment in lake waters will continue to occur. The present study demonstrated that the ‘benign’ process of alluvial gold mining can have significant chemical consequences in resulting water bodies.
mine pit lake, geochemistry, New Zealand, alluvial gold mine, mining impact, sulfide dissolution, trace metals