Geochemistry, Environmental Impact and Remediation of Mining Areas

A special issue of Minerals (ISSN 2075-163X). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Mineralogy and Biogeochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 December 2023) | Viewed by 9196

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Departamento de Geociências, Universidade do Porto, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal
Interests: organic petrology (basic and applied); organic geochemistry; coal; dispersed organic matter

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Guest Editor
Departamento de Geociências Ambiente e Ordenamento do Território, Universidade do Porto, 4099-002 Porto, Portugal
Interests: environmental geochemistry; GIS; geological exploration and mineral resources

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Abandoned mines are complex geochemical systems that can be responsible for significant environmental damage. Mining wastes and mine drainage can contain high concentrations of Potentially Toxic Elements (PTEs) and other hazardous substances that can be transferred to the adjacent soils and water bodies through the weathering of primary minerals and secondary mineral phase precipitation. Leaching processes from old mining residues can be complex and controlled by different factors, geochemical and mineralogical composition, waste granulometry, weathering conditions and climate. A relevant factor in this process is the presence of acid mine drainage, acidic solutions that result from sulphide dissolution, rich in PTEs.

The environmental assessment in mining areas is largely dependent on hazardous elements' mobility, speciation and bioavailability. Nonetheless, Pollution Indexes have been extensively applied to provide an expedited approach to soil and sediment contamination characterization.

The inventory and detailed characterization of these abandoned mining sites are essential, only an extensive study of the environmental impacts on the surrounding soils, waters, air and ecosystems can lead to appropriate remediation actions in old abandoned mines, and the formulation of suitable environmental mitigation measures on active and future mines. The sites contaminated with toxic organics and metals present a particular challenge for remediation. The promising remediation strategies for contaminated historical mining sites are a requirement for the prevention of environmental damage from mining operations.

This Special Issue aims to compile different contributions to the global portrayal of environmental impacts of abandoned mines, its geological and mineralogical controls, geochemical characterization of hazardous materials, mobility, speciation, bioavailability, environmental assessment, and mitigation and or remediation measures. Unconventional or less common approaches are warmly welcome.

Prof. Dr. Deolinda Flores
Dr. Patrícia Santos
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • mine waste
  • soil contamination
  • potentially toxic elements
  • water contamination
  • pollution indices
  • mine drainage
  • acid drainage
  • risk assessment
  • remediation

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

20 pages, 15669 KiB  
Article
Contamination Fingerprints in an Inactive W (Sn) Mine: The Regoufe Mine Study Case (Northern Portugal)
by Helena Sant’Ovaia, Cláudia Cruz, Alexandra Guedes, Helena Ribeiro, Patrícia Santos, Sónia Pereira, Jorge Espinha Marques, Maria dos Anjos Ribeiro, Catarina Mansilha, Helena Cristina Brites Martins, Bruno Valentim, Joana Torres, Ilda Abreu, Fernando Noronha and Deolinda Flores
Minerals 2023, 13(4), 497; https://doi.org/10.3390/min13040497 - 31 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1543
Abstract
The target of this study was the tungsten Regoufe mine, whose exploitation stopped in the 1970s. When the mine closed, an unacceptable legacy constituted of mining waste tailings and the ruins of infrastructure was left behind. This work assessed the soil, plants, and [...] Read more.
The target of this study was the tungsten Regoufe mine, whose exploitation stopped in the 1970s. When the mine closed, an unacceptable legacy constituted of mining waste tailings and the ruins of infrastructure was left behind. This work assessed the soil, plants, and water contamination in the mining area; namely their content in potentially toxic elements (PTEs). The global impact of PTEs in the Regoufe mine surface soil points to a very high to ultrahigh degree of contamination of the area having a serious ecological risk level, mainly related to As and Cd contributions. However, establishing the direct relation between As contamination and the anthropogenic effects caused by the mining process cannot be carried out in a straightforward manner, since the soils were already enriched in metals and metalloids as a result of the geological processes that gave origin to the mineral deposits. The studies performed on the plants revealed that the PTE levels in the plants were lower than in the soil, but site-specific soil concentrations in As and Pb positively influence bioaccumulation in plants. The magnetic studies showed the presence of magnetic technogenic particles concentrated in the magnetic fraction, in the form of magnetic spherules. The magnetic technogenic particles probably result from temperature increases induced by some technological process related to ore processing/mining activity. The PTEs in the surface and groundwater samples were similar and relatively low, being unlikely to pose potential health and environmental risks. Arsenic (As) constituted the exception, with levels above reference for drinking water purposes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry, Environmental Impact and Remediation of Mining Areas)
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19 pages, 5914 KiB  
Article
The Legacy of Potential Environmental Soil Contamination in an Antimony Mining Heritage Area
by António Fiúza, Aurora Futuro, Joaquim Gois, M. Lurdes Dinis, Cristina Vila, Soeiro Carvalho and António Fernandes
Minerals 2023, 13(2), 257; https://doi.org/10.3390/min13020257 - 11 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1428
Abstract
In the Valongo Belt, with an extension of about 90 km, located very close to Porto, northern Portugal, dozens of ore deposits of various metallic minerals and coal were exploited in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the metals most intensely exploited [...] Read more.
In the Valongo Belt, with an extension of about 90 km, located very close to Porto, northern Portugal, dozens of ore deposits of various metallic minerals and coal were exploited in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the metals most intensely exploited was antimony, with or without associated gold mineralization. This research intends to verify the extent of the current environmental legacy of ancient antimony mining. A typical old mine was selected. The main objectives were to verify whether the environmental legacy still manifests today, how natural processes contributed to an environmental dispersion of the mining footprint and whether the environmental legacy was absorbed by developments in a new landscape modified by anthropic activities. The topography of the area was captured using a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) based drone system. The regional background was characterized by the geo-referenced chemical analysis of 157 soil samples, collected in a 35 × 35 m grid. The former mining area was characterized by 58 supplementary samples. The mining area is distinct from the background by higher antimony and zinc levels, constituting two distinct populations, as confirmed by statistical tests. In the samples collected in the industrial zone, six elements were considered contaminants: As, Cu, Mo, Sb, Sn and Zn. The concentrations of these elements were statistically examined using multivariate statistical analyses (principal component analysis and correspondence analysis). The main conclusions are: (a) the mining heritage area is discernible from the highly mineralized background; (b) in the mining zone, it is possible to distinguish the processing industrial area from the waste rock storage; (c) the natural processes of environmental dispersion were of little relevance; (d) the environmental legacy was smoothed and mostly incorporated into the new post-industrial landscape created by anthropic activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry, Environmental Impact and Remediation of Mining Areas)
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22 pages, 12589 KiB  
Article
Environmental Impact Assessment of the Subsurface in a Former W-Sn Mine: Integration of Geophysical Methodologies
by Hender De Almeida, Maria Cristina Gomes Marques, Helena Sant’Ovaia, Rui Moura and Jorge Espinha Marques
Minerals 2023, 13(1), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/min13010055 - 28 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1646
Abstract
Associated with the exploitation of metallic minerals in Europe during the 20th century, several mining areas were abandoned without adequate environmental intervention. Furthermore, these areas lack studies to characterize the impact of pollution on the hydrogeological system. The area surrounding the tungsten mine [...] Read more.
Associated with the exploitation of metallic minerals in Europe during the 20th century, several mining areas were abandoned without adequate environmental intervention. Furthermore, these areas lack studies to characterize the impact of pollution on the hydrogeological system. The area surrounding the tungsten mine of Regoufe, in northern Portugal, is one such area exploited during the Second World War. The accumulation of sulfide-rich tailings may have caused an acid mine drainage (AMD), where the leaching processes caused by seepage water led to soil contamination, evidenced by its acid character and anomalous concentrations of some Potentially Toxic Elements (PTE) reported in previous studies. The present research proposes an innovative approach that seeks the integration of different geophysical techniques to characterize the impact of mining activity on the subsurface. Electrical resistivity (ER) and electromagnetic (EM) were used to measure subsurface electrical properties. In addition, seismic refraction and Multichannel Analysis of Surface Waves (MASW) were performed to characterize the geometry, depth, and geomechanical behavior of the soil and rock bodies. The integration of these techniques allowed the interpretation of hydrogeological sections and a 3D resistivity volume to gain insight into the distribution of potentially contaminating fluids and tailings material present in the mining valley. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry, Environmental Impact and Remediation of Mining Areas)
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27 pages, 14076 KiB  
Article
Geochemistry of Soils from the Surrounding Area of a Coal Mine Waste Pile Affected by Self-Burning (Northern Portugal)
by Patrícia Santos, Jorge Espinha Marques, Joana Ribeiro, Catarina Mansilha, Armindo Melo, Rita Fonseca, Helena Sant’Ovaia and Deolinda Flores
Minerals 2023, 13(1), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/min13010028 - 24 Dec 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1939
Abstract
Coal mining can generate organic and inorganic contaminants that can be disseminated in the surrounding soils by leaching and/or aerial deposition. This study aims to identify and characterize the physicochemical and geochemical changes promoted in soils from the surrounding area of a self-burning [...] Read more.
Coal mining can generate organic and inorganic contaminants that can be disseminated in the surrounding soils by leaching and/or aerial deposition. This study aims to identify and characterize the physicochemical and geochemical changes promoted in soils from the surrounding area of a self-burning waste pile in an abandoned coal mine. A soil sampling campaign was conducted bordering the waste pile, comprising the main drainage areas as well as the areas uphill. The soils were characterized geochemically for major and trace elements and multivariate statistics was used in combination with geostatistical methodologies to study the statistical and spatial relations of the different elements and infer their Potentially Toxic Elements (PTEs) sources. The 16 priority Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) were identified and quantified in soils according to their spatial distribution, and their pyrogenic/petrogenic sources were inferred. Different sources were identified as contributing to the soil geochemical signature, considering not only the mine but also anthropogenic urban contamination or naturally enhanced regional geochemical background in multiple PTEs. PAHs tend to concentrate downstream of the waste pile, along the runoff areas, presenting a greater variety of the 16 priority PAHs and an increase of High Molecular Weight (HMW) PAHs pointing to its pyrogenic origin, possibly related to the self-combustion phenomenon occurring in the waste pile. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry, Environmental Impact and Remediation of Mining Areas)
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20 pages, 4037 KiB  
Article
Geochemical Characteristics of Soils to the Impact of Diamond Mining in Siberia (Russia)
by Anna Gololobova, Yana Legostaeva, Vladimir Popov, Victor Makarov and Olesya Shadrinova
Minerals 2022, 12(12), 1518; https://doi.org/10.3390/min12121518 - 27 Nov 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1683
Abstract
This article presents the results of long-term research and monitoring of the soil cover exposed to the impact of the mining and processing plant developing diamond deposits in the northeast of Siberia. The soil collection includes 436 samples of different types of Cryosols. [...] Read more.
This article presents the results of long-term research and monitoring of the soil cover exposed to the impact of the mining and processing plant developing diamond deposits in the northeast of Siberia. The soil collection includes 436 samples of different types of Cryosols. Soil pH; soil organic carbon (SOC); granulometric composition; and mobile forms of Pb, Ni, Mn, Cd, Co, Cr, Zn, Cu, and As were identified in the samples. Multivariate statistics of the correlation matrix, clustering analysis (CA), and principal component analysis (PCA) were used to determine the sources of heavy metals. The intensity of the accumulation of chemical elements in the soil was assessed using calculated concentration coefficients (Kc) and the index of total contamination of the soil cover (Zc). In the study area, Cryosols are characterized by biogenic accumulation of Ni, Mn, and Cd in the upper soil layer and Cr, Ni, Co, Mn, and Cu in the suprapermafrost horizon. Correlation matrix, CA, and PCA revealed three distinct sources that could be considered for the investigated potentially toxic elements (PTEs): anthropogenic, lithogenic, and the source which comes from a mixed contribution of anthropogenic and lithogenic factors. The most anthropogenic contribution in the heavy metals in the study area appears in Zn, Cd, As, and Pb. The assessment interpreted that origin of Mn in the area is most likely to be a natural source. The content of Co, Cr, and Ni are controlled by both lithogenic control and anthropogenic sources. Active accumulation of mobile forms of Mn, Zn, and Ni with anomalously high concentration coefficients can be traced in the soils in the impact zone of mining operations. Anthropogenic soil contamination is spread over an area of 260 km2. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry, Environmental Impact and Remediation of Mining Areas)
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