Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 186, Issue 3, pp 1899-1905

First online:

Soil criteria to protect terrestrial wildlife and open-range livestock from metal toxicity at mining sites

  • Karl L. FordAffiliated withBureau of Land Management
  • , W. Nelson BeyerAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Email author 

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Thousands of hard rock mines exist in the western USA and in other parts of the world as a result of historic and current gold, silver, lead, and mercury mining. Many of these sites in the USA are on public lands. Typical mine waste associated with these sites are tailings and waste rock dumps that may be used by wildlife and open-range livestock. This report provides wildlife screening criteria levels for metals in soil and mine waste to evaluate risk and to determine the need for site-specific risk assessment, remediation, or a change in management practices. The screening levels are calculated from toxicity reference values based on maximum tolerable levels of metals in feed, on soil and plant ingestion rates, and on soil to plant uptake factors for a variety of receptors. The metals chosen for this report are common toxic metals found at mining sites: arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc. The resulting soil screening values are well above those developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The difference in values was mainly a result of using toxicity reference values that were more specific to the receptors addressed rather than the most sensitive receptor.


Wildlife Metals Soil criteria Toxicity Mining