Environmental Impacts of Mining in Soils and Water

A special issue of Geosciences (ISSN 2076-3263).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2021) | Viewed by 8462

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Departamento de Biología, Geología, Física y Química Inorgánica, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Campus de Móstoles (Madrid), Madrid, Spain
Interests: environmental geology; environmental geochemistry; environmental impacts of mining in soils and water; chemical characterization of groundwater and surface water

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Guest Editor
Departamento de Mineralogía y Petrología, Universidad Complutense Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: contamination and remediation of soils; environmental geochemistry; mining wastes, acid mine drainage; mobility and toxicity of heavy metals
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There are a large number of environmental impacts generated by mining and the associated processing operations, affecting air, soils, and water. Perhaps the most conspicuous (and concerning) impacts are those related to contamination and loss of chemical quality, but they are not the only ones: Other effects include physical and chemical degradation processes that must be necessarily considered since they could produce loss of resources and severe alterations in ecosystems and biota or generate a health risk.

Regarding environmental mining impacts, several aspects have to be highlighted to get a correct approach to the problem, and therefore to its mitigation: a) Impacts are transferred among environmental compartments; b) different impacts (with different expression) occur at different stages (exploration, production, and closure); c) in most cases, several impacts are associated; and d) some impacts may be reduced but not avoided.

From that approach to a multifaceted and complex problem, we invite contributions particularly concerning the environmental impacts of mining in soil and water as the intimately related compartments that they are. This Special Issue invites critical reviews and research papers providing advanced and original insights into the characterization and assessment of chemical impacts (acidification, alkalization, salinization, contamination), physical impacts in soil (loss of texture and structure, alterations in porosity, geomorphological alterations, loss of soil, etc.), and physical degradation of water (alterations in channel morphology, runoff and infiltration, increase of sediment load, changes in water levels and volumes, alteration in groundwater flow models, etc.) associated to mining activities.

Dr. Javier Lillo
Prof. María de la Luz García Lorenzo
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Mining impacts/closure 
  • Contamination 
  • Mining acid drainage 
  • Soil degradation
  • Water quality 
  • Geomorphology 
  • Soil erosion 
  • Infiltration 
  • Groundwater levels/flow models 
  • Impact assessment

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

20 pages, 5493 KiB  
Article
Controls on the Spatial Distribution of Trace Metal Concentrations along the Bedrock-Dominated South Fork New River, North Carolina
by Jerry R. Miller, Xaviera Watkins, Thomas O'Shea and Cynthia Atterholt
Geosciences 2021, 11(12), 519; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences11120519 - 17 Dec 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2714
Abstract
In marked contrast to alluvial rivers, few studies have examined the physical and geochemical controls on the spatial distribution of toxic trace metals along bedrock channels. This study examined the factors controlling the geographical pattern of selected trace metal (Cu, Cr, and Zn) [...] Read more.
In marked contrast to alluvial rivers, few studies have examined the physical and geochemical controls on the spatial distribution of toxic trace metals along bedrock channels. This study examined the factors controlling the geographical pattern of selected trace metal (Cu, Cr, and Zn) concentrations along the bedrock-dominated channel of the South Fork New River (SFNR). The SFNR is located in the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province of North Carolina, and is representative of many rivers in mountainous terrains that are often subjected to the influx of toxic trace metals from historic and contemporary mining operations. The topography of the SFNR’s channel bed is highly variable and can be subdivided into pool and shallow bedrock reaches. The latter contained localized cascades characterized by topographically higher bedrock ribs that are separated by topographic lows, both of which are oriented oblique to flow. Accumulations of bed sediments are predominantly associated with the traverse bedrock ribs that generate high hydraulic roughness. Except for a few localized zones of enrichment, sediment-associated trace metal concentrations tended to vary within a narrow range of background values over the 36 km study reach. Elevated trace metal concentrations were closely linked to zones of high Fe and Mn concentrations, and were associated with pools located within or immediately downstream of bedrock cascades. The elevated concentrations of the metals appear to be derived from the erosion of lithologic units within the cascades that contain sulfidic layers or zones of mafic mineral enrichment, and which are known to occur in the underlying bedrock. Once eroded, these minerals and/or rock fragments were deposited within low-velocity zones created by the transverse ribs or within downstream pools. The enrichment of trace metals downstream of the cascades may also be due to the formation of Fe and Mn oxyhydroxides as turbulent flows aerate river waters as they traverse the cascades. Chemically reactive fine-grained (<63 µm) sediments had a relatively limited influence on the downstream variations in metal concentrations, presumably because the channel bed sediments are composed primarily of sand-sized and larger particles. Although a principal component analysis (PCA) suggested that reach-scale variations in channel and valley morphology may have partly influenced downstream variations in trace metal concentrations, the geographical patterns were primarily controlled by local geological and geomorphic factors associated with the bedrock cascades. The design of future sampling programs along such coarse-grained, bedrock rivers should consider the significance of these local controls on trace metal storage to effectively characterize and interpret downstream patterns in metal concentrations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Impacts of Mining in Soils and Water)
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29 pages, 6547 KiB  
Article
Geochemical Characterization and Trace-Element Mobility Assessment for Metallic Mine Reclamation in Soils Affected by Mine Activities in the Iberian Pyrite Belt
by Ramón Sánchez-Donoso, Mari Luz García Lorenzo, José María Esbrí, Eva María García-Noguero, Pablo Higueras and Elena Crespo
Geosciences 2021, 11(6), 233; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences11060233 - 29 May 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3272
Abstract
The geochemical characterization of the mine deposits and soils in metal mining areas is essential in order to develop an effective mine reclamation strategy. The determination of total potentially toxic element (PTE) content, together with the application of chemical extraction procedures, can give [...] Read more.
The geochemical characterization of the mine deposits and soils in metal mining areas is essential in order to develop an effective mine reclamation strategy. The determination of total potentially toxic element (PTE) content, together with the application of chemical extraction procedures, can give insight into the behavior of contaminants after the application of different mine reclamation solutions, as well as identify the areas where urgent action is needed. This work presents a practical application to the evaluation of the pollution potential of trace elements in soils affected by mining activities, to be used in metallic mine reclamation. The PTE behavior was assessed by single extractions in order to simulate four environmental conditions: PTE mobility under rainfall conditions, acid mine drainage, reducing conditions, and plant uptake. The spatial distribution of contaminants in the study area was evaluated by determination of PTE total content in soil samples. Trace elements with high natural mobility, such as Zn, appeared concentrated at water and sediment discharge areas, while As, Pb, and Cu contents were higher near the mine wastes. The results obtained after the extractions suggested that the highest PTE content was extracted in the complexing–reducing medium, due to the dissolution of secondary sulfates and Fe3+ oxyhydroxides and the subsequent release of PTEs associated with those mineral phases. Reclamation strategies applied in the study area should promote efficient water drainage, infiltration, and subsuperficial water circulation in order to maintain oxidant conditions in the soil. The methodology applied in this study may constitute a valuable tool to define the geochemical constraints in metal mining areas, as well as help to develop appropriate mine reclamation solutions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Impacts of Mining in Soils and Water)
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20 pages, 7061 KiB  
Article
Mobility and Bioavailability of Metal(loid)s in a Fluvial System Affected by the Mining and Industrial Processing of Pb
by Unai Cortada, María Carmen Hidalgo, Julián Martínez and María José de la Torre
Geosciences 2021, 11(4), 167; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences11040167 - 6 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1696
Abstract
The abandoned mining district of Linares (South Spain) is marked with waste from the mining and the processing of metal ores that pose an environmental hazard to watercourses. A combined analysis of waste, sediments and water was carried out to analyse the impact [...] Read more.
The abandoned mining district of Linares (South Spain) is marked with waste from the mining and the processing of metal ores that pose an environmental hazard to watercourses. A combined analysis of waste, sediments and water was carried out to analyse the impact of a smelter on Baños Creek. The composition of the facility waste was determined using X-ray diffractometry and scanning electron microscopy. The total contents of the metal(loid)s in the waters and sediments of the watercourse were analysed, and sequential metal(loid) extraction of solid samples was carried out. The facility wastes consisted mainly of secondary minerals, such as natropharmacosiderite and spertiniite, as well as rare metal salts, such as mopungite and NaPb2(CO3)2(OH). The leachates generated by these wastes were highly alkaline, with a pH of 10 and a total dissolved solids concentration of approximately 9 g L−1. This Na-bicarbonate-type water had an As concentration above 200 mg L−1 and elevated levels of Pb, Sb and Zn (5029 µg L−1, 841 µg L−1 and 525 µg L−1, respectively). This highly contaminated lixiviate had a significant effect on the chemical quality of the waters and the bioavailability of metal(loid)s in the creek sediments, especially in the headwaters. In this zone, the As, Pb, Sb and Zn concentrations in the most mobile fraction of the sediments reached 1035 mg kg−1, 261 mg kg−1, 45 mg kg−1 and 30 mg kg−1, respectively. By comparison, smelter slag and mining waste have a much lower impact on the waters and the mobile fraction of the sediments, while significantly increasing the total concentration of these potentially toxic elements in creek sediments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Impacts of Mining in Soils and Water)
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