Chemical composition

Päivi M. Kauppila1, Teemu Karlsson1 & Henna Punkkinen21Geological Survey of Finland, P.O. BOX 1237, FI-70211 Kuopio, FINLAND, e-mail: paivi.kauppila(at), 2VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O. Box 1000, FI-02044 VTT, FINLAND

There is a wide range of methods to determine the chemical composition of mine wastes and the applied methods depend on the objective of the characterization. The general characterization of mine waste typically includes measurements of the overall chemical composition to evaluate the content of potentially harmful substances in the waste, amounts of total sulphur or sulphide sulphur to measure the acid production potential, carbonate-carbon content to evaluate the presence of neutralizing carbonates and neutralising capacity, and the measurement of the leaching potential of possible contaminants to assess the risks of the waste material to the environment. In addition, in case of uranium or REE deposits or other deposits containing uranium-bearing materials, radioactive properties of the mine wastes are determined. Physico-chemical properties are further measured to assess the dam or slope stability.

Methods to investigate the chemical composition of mine wastes include (Technical Committee 2009, Kauppila et al 2013, INAP 2009, European Commission 2009):

  • ​Eluate and leachate analysis
    • ​Elements and group parameters, NH4+, AOX, conductivity, Hg, phenol index, TOC, cyanide (easily liberatable), F­
    • Total dissolved solids (TDS)
    • Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) (determination of trace elements)


Eby, N. 2012. Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). Retrieved Dec. 3 2014, from

European Commission 2009. Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for Management of Tailings and Waste-Rock in Mining Activities. January 2009.

INAP 2009. The GARD Guide. The Global Acid Rock Drainage Guide. The International Network for Acid Prevention (INAP).

Kauppila, P., Räisänen, M.L. & Myllyoja, S. (eds) 2013: Best Environmental Practices in Metal Ore Mining. Finnish Environment Institute 29en / 2011. 219 p.
Technical Committee CEN/TC 292 2012. Characterization of waste – Overall guidance document for characterization of wastes from extractive industries. CEN/TR 16376:2012.