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Fracture Wall Cements and Coatings from Two Clayey Till Aquitards

Secondary minerals occurring at the faces of fractures, the only reliable visual evidence of the presence of hydraulically conductive fractures in clayey unlithified aquitards, have been characterized for two uncontaminated field sites, Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, and Laidlaw, Ontario. Preliminary identification of secondary minerals and their variations with depth was made using a MunsellTM Color Chart. Subsequent microscopic analyses (petrography, electron microprobe analysis, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction) were used to identify iron-oxide mineralogy. Iron oxides were identified as goethite, ferrihydrite, and hematite at Dalmeny, where they occur to depths of 10 to 15 m, and goethite and ferrihydrite at Laidlaw, observed to depths of 7 m. In both cases, the identification of ferrihydrite was tentative due to the problems of small sample size and peak overlap in X-ray diffraction. The iron oxides do not form coatings on the surfaces of the fractures as had been previously thought; rather they form cements linking the matrix grains. Thus there is potential for decreased permeability and increased surface reactivity parallel to and inward from the fracture faces. The pattern of iron-oxide distribution suggests that the youngest deposits, and those with the greatest surface reactivity and potential for contaminant retardation, are found at greatest depths in the fractures. Manganese oxides form in isolated clusters in larger pores and indentations, although the exact manganese minerals could not be firmly identified.

Co-published along with Catherine A. Corrigan and Heather E. Jamieson.

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