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Microbially induced iron retention in the Central German coalfield using the example of the Witznitz mine dump: results of a feasibility study

As a result of the rearrangement of tertiary sediments and the groundwater lowering during open pit lignite mining, the formerly stable iron sulfide compounds oxidize to iron and sulfate ions and acidity. With the end of mining operations and the resulting rise in groundwater levels, these substances are transported into surface water, causing negative effects on the ecosystem and water management.
Sulfate reduction reverses the preceding oxidation process. By adding a carbon source, sulfate-reducing bacteria are activated in the aquifer. These metabolize the added carbon, producing sulfide which combines with the iron present in the groundwater to form iron sulfide and is fixed in the subsurface.
The process has already been tested as a pilot project in the Lusatian coalfield. For the transfer to the Central German mining district, adjustments had to be made to the plant design due to the cohesive soils and higher concentrations of iron and sulfate.
The plant configuration provides for a modular structure consisting of six self-sufficient sections. In each module, 86 individually controllable lances are provided for both lifting and infiltration of the water. Infiltration takes place in one lance at a time, while water is being lifted from other lances or these are paused so that water flows in. In this way, the problem of groundwater surface drawdown caused by upstream wells or the disadvantages of using external water are avoided. The lifted water is mixed with glycerine as a carbon source and then infiltrated again.


Christian Hildmann1, Sarah Kruber1
1Research Institute for Post-Mining Landscapes, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023
Eastern German coal fields