The Solubility Control of Rare Earth Elements in Natural Terrestrial Waters and the Significance of PO43− and CO32− in Limiting Dissolved Rare Earth Concentrations: A Review of Recent Information

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rare earth elements, lakes, groundwaters, activity products, solubility products, solubility controls, complexation

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Rare earth element (REE) concentrations in alkaline lakes, circumneutral pH groundwaters, and an acidic freshwater lake were determined along with the free carbonate, free phosphate, and free sulfate ion concentrations. These parameters were used to evaluate the saturation state of these waters with respect to REE phosphate and carbonate precipitates. Our activity product estimates indicate that the alkaline lake waters and groundwaters are approximately saturated with respect to the REE phosphate precipitates but are significantly undersaturated with respect to REE carbonate and sulfate precipitates. On the other hand, the acidic lake waters are undersaturated with respect to REE sulfate, carbonate, and phosphate precipitates. Although carbonate complexes tend to dominate the speciation of the REEs in neutral and alkaline waters, our results indicate that REE phosphate precipitates are also important in controlling REE behavior. More specifically, elevated carbonate ion concentrations in neutral to alkaline natural waters tend to enhance dissolved REE concentrations through the formation of stable REE-carbonate complexes whereas phosphate ions tend to lead to the removal of the REEs from solution in these waters by the formation of REE-phosphate salts. Removal of REEs by precipitation as phosphate phases in the acid lake (pH=3.6) is inconsequential, however, due to extremely low [PO 3−4 ] F concentrations (i.e., ∼ 10−23 mol/kg).

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Aquatic Geochemistry, v. 1, p. 157-173