The concentration of rare earth elements together with Sc, Y, and U, as well as rare earth elements fractionation patterns, in the water of an affected acid mine drainage system were investigated. Significant dissolved concentrations of the studied elements were observed in the fluvial sector of this estuary system (Sc ∼ 31 μg L−1, Y ∼ 187 μg L−1, U ∼ 41 μg L−1, Σ rare earth elements ∼621 μg L−1), with pH values below 2.7. In the mixing zone of the estuary, concentrations are lower (Sc ∼ 2.1 μg L−1; Y ∼ 16.7 μg L−1; U ∼ 4.8 μg L−1; Σ rare earth elements ∼65.3 μg L−1) and show a strong longitudinal gradient. The largest rare earth elements removal occurs in the medium-chlorinity zone and it becomes extreme for heavy rare earth elements, as observed for Sc. Samples of the mixing zone show a North American Shale normalized pattern similar to the fluvial zone water, while the samples located in the zone with pH between 6.5 and 7.7 show a depletion of light rare earth elements relative to middle rare earth elements and heavy rare earth elements, similar to that observed in samples of the marine estuary.
Keywords: acidic river-estuary, dissolved rare earth elements, fractionation pattern, Iberian Pyrite Belt, Spain