Heavy metal distribution and chemical speciation in tailings and soils around a Pb-Zn mine in Spain

L Rodríguez, E Ruiz, J Alonso-Azcárate, J Rincón
Journal of Environmental Management 2009, 90 (2): 1106-16
Soil pollution by lead, zinc, cadmium and copper was characterized in the mine tailings and surrounding soils (arable and pasture lands) of an old Spanish Pb-Zn mine. Sixty soil samples were analyzed, determining the total metal concentration by acid digestion and the chemical fractionation of Pb and Zn by the modified BCR sequential extraction method. Samples belonging to mine waste areas showed the highest values, with mean concentrations of 28,453.50 mg kg(-1) for Pb, 7000.44 mg kg(-1) for Zn, 20.57 mg kg(-1) for Cd and 308.48 mg kg(-1) for Cu. High concentrations of Pb, Zn and Cd were found in many of the samples taken from surrounding arable and pasture lands, indicating a certain extent of spreading of heavy metal pollution. Acidic drainage and wind transport of dust were proposed as the main effects causing the dispersion of pollution. Sequential extraction showed that most of the Pb was associated with non-residual fractions, mainly in reducible form, in all the collected samples. Zn appeared mainly associated with the acid-extractable form in mine tailing samples, while the residual form was the predominant one in samples belonging to surrounding areas. Comparison of our results with several criteria reported in the literature for risk assessment in soils polluted by heavy metals showed the need to treat the mine tailings dumped in the mine area.

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