Technical Report NTB 90-32

Poços de Caldas Report No. 14Geochemical modelling of water-rock interactions at the Osamu Utsumi mine and Morro do Ferro analogue study sites, Poços de Caldas, Brazil

Geochemical processes involving water-rock-gas interactions have been modelled using groundwater compositions, mineralogical data, ion plots and computations of speciation, non-thermodynamic mass balance and thermodynamic mass transfer for two natural analogue sites near Poços de Caldas, Brazil: the Osamu Utsumi mine and Morro do Ferro. The main rock type is an alkaline igneous complex composed of volcanic and sub-volcanic phonolites that have been hydrothermally altered and highly weathered. This altered rock mass grades from a laterite at the surface to a saprolite and finally to unweathered, hydrothermally altered bedrock at depth. The mine site contains high concentrations of uranium and Morro do Ferro contains high concentrations of thorium and rare-earths. The reaction models can reproduce the water chemistry and mineral occurrences and they were validated by predicting the masses of minerals precipitated and the pH of the final water. The model computations can also reproduce the pH and iron concentrations of the water samples during CO2 degassing and iron(II) oxidation from exposure to air. The results from the geochemical reaction models reveal that the dominant processes are production of CO2 in the soil zone through aerobic decay of organic matter, dissolution of fluorite, calcite, K-feldspar, albite and manganese oxides, oxidation of pyrite and sphalerite and precipitation of ferric oxides, silica and kaolinite. Recharge waters are undersaturated with respect to barite and discharging waters and deeper groundwaters are saturated to supersaturated with respect to barite, demonstrating a strong equilibrium solubility control. Strontium isotope data demonstrate that sources other than calcium-bearing minerals are required to account for the dissolved strontium in the groundwaters. These may include K-feldspar, smectite-chlorite mixed-layer clays and goyazite.