Handheld Raman spectrometer helps to identify sulfates in mining areas of Iberian Pyrite Belt

The São Domingos area (Corte do Pinto, Portugal) represents a large sulfide ore deposit in the Iberian Pyrite Belt that was mined primarily for copper and sulfur in the past. The deserted mine and mine wastes are the reason for the production of acid mining drainage, giving rise to abundant efflorescence and crusts of secondary sulfates. Metastable sulfates may temporary sink various pollutants, therefore a quick and reliable method is required for the in situ monitoring of their distribution directly in the field. In this work, we tested a handheld Raman spectrometer equipped with a 532 nm laser excitation for this task. Sulfate crusts and aggregates of the complex composition and various colors were analyzed using this particular spectrometer in the field. Additionally, the collected samples were also investigated through laboratory-based Raman spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction. A suite of hydrated Fe-, Cu-, Mg-, and Al-bearing sulfates and elemental sulfur was detected in the complex mixtures by the handheld instrument which was subsequently confirmed by the laboratory methods. The results show that handheld Raman spectrometers can often provide spectral data at a reasonable quality level fully complementary to laboratory-based methods. Therefore, such systems can be deployed for the monitoring of distribution of secondary sulfates and other minerals in post-mining areas.

Košek F., Culka A., Fornasini L., Vandenabeele P., Rousaki A., Mirao J., Bersani D., Candeias A., Jehlička J. (2020): Application of a handheld Raman spectrometer for the screening of colored secondary sulfates in abandoned mining areas – the case of São Domingos Mine (Iberian Pyrite Belt). Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 51, 1186-1199. (DOI)