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University of New Mexico

Superfund Research Program

Immobilization of U, As, and Co-occurring Metals in Mine Wastes

Project Leader: Jose Manuel Cerrato
Co-Investigators: Scott Fendorf (Stanford University), Christopher L. Shuey (Southwest Research and Information Center), Juan Lezama Pacheco (Stanford University), Jorge Gonzalez-Estrella
Grant Number: P42ES025589
Funding Period: 2017-2022
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

The researchers from the University of New Mexico Metal Exposure and Toxicity Assessment on Tribal Lands in the Southwest Superfund Research Program Center (UNM METALS) are making use of mineral phases commonly found in mine wastes sites for metal immobilization. The aim of this interdisciplinary research is to develop cost-effective remediation strategies that immobilize metals and prevent degradation of community water sources.

Biogeochemical and mass transfer interfacial processes are being investigated through bench-scale experiments using field sediment samples. Researchers are integrating aqueous chemistry, molecular environmental microbiology, mathematical models, advanced microscopy, and synchrotron-based spectroscopy tools in collaboration with Stanford University. The investigation of reaction mechanisms involving metal mixtures of ubiquitous secondary mineral phases and the adsorption of locally abundant iron oxides will contribute to reduce exposure risks to human health.

The researchers hypothesize that ubiquitous mineral phases in mine waste sites can be used to immobilize metal mixtures under surface oxidizing conditions. This project will have an invaluable impact on the Navajo community that lives in the proximity of the abandoned mine wastes site. Through the integration of advanced techniques at the cutting-edge of environmental science and engineering, the researchers are investigating reactions and mechanisms at the molecular level to understand macro-scale processes influencing water quality. The participating Navajo communities and UNM METALS scientists are producing new knowledge that can be applied to remediation strategies for thousands of other existing abandoned mine waste sites.

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