Arsenic-bearing pyrite and marcasite in the Fire Clay coal bed, Middle Pennsylvanian Breathitt Formation, eastern Kentucky

Leslie F. Ruppert, James C. Hower, Cortland F. Eble

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68 Scopus citations


Arsenic concentrations determined on 11 lithotype samples from the Middle Pennsylvanian Breathitt Group Fire Clay coal bed, Leslie County, KY, range from 1 to 418 ppm (whole coal basis). The 11 lithotype samples, which vary in thickness from 4 to 18 cm, were sampled from a continuous 1.38 m channel sample, and were selected based on megascopic appearance (vitrain-rich versus attrital-rich). A lithotype that contains 418 ppm As is located near the top of the coal bed and is composed of 10.5 cm of bright clarain bands containing fusain that, within short distances, grade laterally into Fe sulfide bands. To determine the mode of occurrence of As in this lithotype, the coal was examined with scanning electron microscopy and analyzed by energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence. Massive, framboidal, cell filling, cell-wall replacement, and radiating forms of Fe sulfide were observed in the high As lithotype; many of the radiating Fe sulfide forms, and one of the cell-wall replacements contained As. Examination of the grains with optical light microscopy shows that the majority of radiating morphologies are pyrite, the remainder are marcasite. Selected Fe sulfide grains were also analyzed by electron microprobe microscopy. Arsenic concentrations within individual grains range from 0.0 wt.% to approximately 3.5 wt.%. On the basis of morphology, these Fe sulfides are presumed to be of syngenetic origin and would probably be removed from the coal during physical coal cleaning, thus eliminating a potential source of As from the coal combustion process. However, because the grains are radiating and have high surface area, dissolution and release of As could occur if the pyrite is oxidized in refuse ponds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number1-2 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Jul 20 2005


  • Appalachian Basin
  • Arsenic
  • Coal
  • Fire Clay coal zone
  • Kentucky
  • Marcasite
  • Pyrite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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