Assessing metal pollution in ponds constructed for controlling runoff from reclaimed coal mines
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- Miguel-Chinchilla, L., González, E. & Comín, F.A. Environ Monit Assess (2014) 186: 5247. doi:10.1007/s10661-014-3774-x
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Constructing ponds to protect downstream ecosystems is a common practice in opencast coal mine reclamation. As these ponds remain integrated in the landscape, it is important to evaluate the extent of the effect of mine pollution on these ecosystems. However, this point has not been sufficiently addressed in the literature. The main objective of this work was to explore the metal pollution in man-made ponds constructed for runoff control in reclaimed opencast coal mines over time. To do so, we evaluated the concentration of ten heavy metals in the water, sediment, and Typha sp. in 16 runoff ponds ranging from 1 to 19 years old that were constructed in reclaimed opencast coal mines of northeastern Spain. To evaluate degree of mining pollution, we compared these data to those from a pit lake created in a local unreclaimed mine and to local streams as an unpolluted reference, as well as comparing toxicity levels in aquatic organisms. The runoff ponds showed toxic concentrations of Al, Cu, and Ni in the water and As and Ni in the sediment, which were maintained over time. Metal concentrations in runoff ponds were higher than in local streams, and macrophytes showed high metal concentrations. Nevertheless, metal concentrations in water and sediment in runoff ponds were lower than those in the pit lake. This study highlights the importance of mining reclamation to preserve the health of aquatic ecosystems and suggests the existence of chronic metal toxicity in the ponds, potentially jeopardizing pond ecological functions and services.