Emergent thallium exposure from uranium mill tailings

Meiling Yin, Yuting Zhou, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Jingzi Beiyuan, Lan Song, Jingye She, Jin Wang, Li Zhu, Fa Fang, Lulu Wang, Juan Liu, Yanyi Liu, Gang Song, Diyun Chen, Tangfu Xiao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Thallium (Tl) pollution caused by the exploitation of uranium (U) mines has long been neglected due to its low crustal abundance. However, Tl may be enriched in minerals of U ore because Tl has both sulfurophile and lithophile properties. Herein, a semi-dynamic leaching experiment combined with statistical analysis, geochemical speciation and multi-characterization provided novel insight into the distinct features and mechanisms of Tl release from uranium mill tailings (UMT). The results showed that particle size effects prevail over the pH on Tl release, and surface dissolution is the pivotal mechanism controlling Tl release based on Fick's diffusion model. The study revealed that long-term leaching and weathering can lead to the increased acid-extractable and oxidizable fractions of Tl in UMT, and that the exposure and dissolution of Tl-containing sulfides would largely enhance the flux of Tl release. The findings indicate that UMT containing (abundant) pyrite should be paid particular attention due to Tl exposure. Besides, critical concern over the potential Tl pollution in universal U mining and hydrometallurgical areas likewise may need to be seriously reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124402
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021


  • Hazardous waste treatment
  • Potentially toxic elements
  • Release mechanism
  • Thallium
  • Uranium mill tailings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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