Sulfidic mine tailings have to be classified as one of the major source of hazardous materials leading to water contamination. This study highlights the processes leading to sulfide oxidation and acid mine drainage (AMD) formation in the active stage of two tailings impoundments located in the southern part of the Apuseni Mountains, in Romania, a well-known region for its long-term gold-silver and metal mining activity. Sampling was undertaken when both impoundments were still in operation in order to assess their actual stage of oxidation and long-term behavior in terms of the potential for acid mine drainage generation. Both tailings have high potential for AMD formation (2.5 and 3.7 wt.% of pyrite equivalent, respectively) with lesser amount of carbonates (5.6 and 3.6 wt.% of calcite equivalent) as neutralization potential (ABA = -55.6 and -85.1 tCaCO(3)/1000 t) and showed clear signs of sulfide oxidation yet during operation. Sequential extraction results indicate a stronger enrichment and mobility of elements in the oxidized tailings: Fe as Fe(III)oxy-hydroxides and oxides (transformation from sulfide minerals, leaching in oxidation zone), Ca mainly in water soluble and exchangeable form where gypsum and calcite are dissolved and higher mobility of Cu for Ribita and Pb for Mialu. Two processes leading to the formation of mine drainage at this stage could be highlighted (1) a neutral Fe(II) plume forming in the impoundment with ferrihydrite precipitation at its outcrop and (2) acid mine drainage seeping in the unsaturated zone of the active dam, leading to the formation of schwertmannite at its outcrop. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.