Assessment of the environmental impact of an abandoned mine using an integrative approach: A case-study of the "Las Musas" mine (Extremadura, Spain).

Affiliation

Department of Technologies and Applied Sciences, Polytechnic Institute of Beja, 7801-295, Portugal; ICT, Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Évora, Rua Romão Ramalho 59, Évora, Portugal. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

The mine abandonment is generally associated with the release of potentially toxic metals into the environment, which may depend on metals speciation, soil properties and climate conditions. The goal of the present work was to assess the environmental impact of the abandoned Pb-Zn mine "Las Musas" (Spain) using an integrative approach. The impact on soils and surface waters was performed using: chemical parameters, quantification of potentially toxic metals (Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn), and ecotoxicological responses using lethal and sub-lethal bioassays with organisms' representative of different trophic level ((soil: Eisenia fetida (mortality and reproduction test); Latuca sativa and Lollium perenne (seedling emergence); and water: Vibrio fischeri (luminescence inhibition), Daphnia magna (immobility and reproduction test), Thamnocephalus platyurus (mortality), Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata (growth inhibition)). The results showed soils with neutral to slight alkaline pH (7.64-8.18), low electric conductivity (125-953 μS/cm) and low organic matter levels (0.20-1.85%). For most of the soil samples, Pb was the only metal which surpassed the limit proposed by the Canadian soil quality guidelines, with values ranging from 42.2 to 181.4 mg/kg. The ecotoxicological results showed that the soils with the highest levels of Pb induced a decrease on E. fetida reproduction and on L. sativa germination, indicating negative impacts on the habitat function. The analysis of the surface waters showed levels of Zn surpassing the legal limit adopted from the Water Framework Directive (37.0 to 69.0 μg/L). The ecotoxicological results highlight the importance of bioassays that evaluate the behavior of species, when assessing the risk of mining areas with non-acid soils and waters with high nutrients/organic matter concentrations and low concentrations of potentially toxic metals. The results indicated a moderate environmental risk from potentially toxic metals, at the areas analyzed around the Azuaga mine.

Keywords

Abandoned mine,Ecotoxicity,Potentially toxic metals,Soil pollution assessment,Water pollution assessment,

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