Pyrite Oxidation by Hexavalent Chromium:  Investigation of the Chemical Processes by Monitoring of Aqueous Metal Species

Pyrite, an iron sulfide, occurs in many soils and sediments, making it an important natural reductant of toxic metal pollutants. This study investigated the processes leading to aqueous Cr(VI) reduction by pyrite in a closed thermostated (25 ± 0.1 °C) system and under an argon atmosphere. Synthetic pyrite suspensions were reacted with a range of Cr(VI) solutions from 0 to 7 × 10-4 M and at pH 2−8. Metal species concentrations were continuously monitored during a period lasting approximately 20 h. Preliminary experiments carried out in acidic media without Cr(VI) have shown that some pyrite dissolution occurred. Then, metal species concentration changes with time during pyrite oxidation by Cr(VI) solutions exhibited two distinct trends depending on the complete or incomplete Cr(VI) removal. As long as chromate existed in solution, the Cr(III) to Fe(III) ratio was found to be an effective parameter to investigate the pyrite reaction stoichiometry with Cr(VI). Experimental values close to 2 suggest that sulfur compounds with oxidation states between 0 and 2 should be formed during pyrite oxidation by Cr(VI). If Cr(VI) was completely reduced from solution, then the pyrite oxidation by Fe(III) ions took place to generate ferrous ions.