Iron isotope exchange and fractionation between jarosite and aqueous Fe(II)

Anne J. Whitworth, Helen E.A. Brand, Andrew J. Frierdich

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Jarosite is one of the critical minerals that regulates acidity and contaminants in acid-sulfate environments and its Fe isotope composition may shed light on its formation, transformation and recrystallization over time. Interpretation of its Fe isotope composition requires understanding the equilibrium Fe isotope fractionation factor between jarosite and other Fe-bearing minerals and aqueous species. Here we explore Fe isotope exchange and fractionation between jarosite and Fe(II)aq under acidic conditions using the three-isotope method (54Fe-56Fe-57Fe). A reversal-approach to equilibrium was applied by reacting synthetic jarosite and natural natrojarosite with two 57Fe-enriched Fe(II)aq solutions that had initial 56Fe/54Fe ratios above and below the predicted equilibrium value. No change in dissolved Fe(II) concentrations were observed with time but the 57Fe/56Fe ratio of Fe(II)aq decreased towards the system mass balance, suggesting a high degree of equilibration of the fluid with the solid phase despite no net Fe(II) sorption (within error). There is a negative relationship between pH and Fe isotope exchange, with Fe isotope exchange proceeding as pH decreases. This may be explained by dissolution of hydronium jarosite and reprecipitation of natrojarosite, coupled H3O+ - Na+ exchange, or jarosite decomposition, although no Fe-oxyhydroxide phases were identified from XRD. Calculation of the amount of Fe atoms in jarosite that exchanged with Fe(II)aq indicates that jarosite recrystallization was limited to a few percent. When the initial δ56Fe value of Fe(II)aq was greater than the presumed equilibrium value its isotopic value substantially decreased with time whereas the δ56Fe values of Fe(II)aq increased with time when it had an initial value below the suspected equilibrium composition. In each case, the isotopic composition of Fe(II)aq approached similar values, providing a high degree of confidence of an attainment of equilibrium. Calculation of the Fe(II)aq–jarosite and Fe(II)aq-natrojarosite equilibrium fractionation factors at 22 °C were −2.26‰ (±0.27‰, 2σ) and −2.19‰ (±0.18‰, 2σ), respectively. This indicates that during jarosite recrystallization in the presence of Fe(II), jarosite is expected to become isotopically heavier as lighter isotopes are fractionated into Fe(II). These values differ from the estimated fractionation factors derived from NRIXS spectroscopy and molecular modeling. The differences between experiments and theory may reflect surface exchange, which was likely in our study, versus predicted bulk thermodynamic properties of the mineral.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119802
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2020


  • Fe Isotopes
  • Fractionation Factor
  • Jarosite
  • Recrystallization
  • Three-Isotope Method

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