Water-rock-tailings interactions and sources of sulfur and metals in the subtropical mining region of Taxco, Guerrero (southern Mexico): A multi-isotopic approach

Oscar Talavera Mendoza, Joaquin Ruiz, Elvia Díaz Villaseñor, Alejandro Ramírez Guzmán, Alejandra Cortés, Sergio Adrián Salgado Souto, Azucena Dótor Almazán, Reymundo Rivera Bustos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Multi-isotope (H, O, S, Sr, Pb) systems coupled with conventional (major and trace element) hydrogeochemical analysis were applied to determine the origin of water, to model water-rock-tailings interactions and for source apportionment of sulfur and associated toxic metals in the mining region of Taxco, Guerrero in southern Mexico. Oxygen and H isotopes indicate that meteoric water in the zone is rainwater undergoing varying degrees of isotopic fractionation by atmospheric evaporation whereas Sr isotopes trace the interaction of pristine water from volcanics of the regional recharge zone and subsequently flowing through sandstone and shale to spring points. Leachates form from two distinctive sources (spring water and surface water) having differential interactions with bedrocks prior to entering the tailings. Compared to pristine water, leachates are enriched in sulfate, metals (e.g. Fe, Mn, Pb and Zn) and metalloids (e.g. As). The sulfur isotopic composition of ore-sulfides, leachates, secondary precipitates, regional surface water and hypogenic sulfates is described in terms of a two-component mixing model with shale of Mexcala and limestone of Morelos formations representing the light and heavy end-members, respectively, whereas Sr isotopic composition is bracketed combining three lithogenic (Mexcala/Morelos, Tilzapotla and Taxco Schist) sources. Finally, leachates have a mixture of lead from ore-sulfides and Taxco Schist Formation (Family I) or from ore-sulfides alone (Family II). The application of multiple environmental isotopic techniques is an outstanding tool for elucidating complex interactions of water with bedrocks and tailings and for determining the source of sulfur and toxic metal from mining and other metal polluted environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Geochemistry
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • H, O, S, Sr and Pb isotopes
  • Hydrogeochemistry
  • Isotopic fractionation
  • Sulfide tailings
  • Water and leachate origin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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