Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 2875–2892 | Cite as

Assessment of metal and metalloid contamination in soils trough compositional data: the old Mortórios uranium mine area, central Portugal

  • A. M. R. Neiva
  • M. T. D. Albuquerque
  • I. M. H. R. AntunesEmail author
  • P. C. S. Carvalho
  • A. C. T. Santos
  • C. Boente
  • P. P. Cunha
  • S. B. A. Henriques
  • R. L. Pato
Original Paper


Soils from the old Mortórios uranium mine area were studied to look for contamination, as they are close to two villages, up to 3 km away, and used for agriculture. They are mainly contaminated in U and As and constitute an ecological threat. This study attempts to outline the degree to which soils have been affected by the old mining activities through the computation of significant hot clusters, Traditional geostatistical approaches commonly use raw data (concentrations) accepting that the analyzed elements represent the soil’s entirety. However, in geochemical studies these elements are just a fraction of the total soil composition. Thus, considering compositional data is pivotal. The spatial characterization, considering raw and compositional data together, allowed a broad discussion about not only the concentrations’ spatial distribution, but also a better understanding on the possibility of trends of “relative enrichment” and, furthermore an insight in U and As fate. The highest proportions (compositional data) on U (up to 33%), As (up to 35%) and Th (up to 13%) are reached in the south-southeast segment. However, the highest concentrations (raw data) occur in north and northwest of the studied area, pointing out to a “relative enrichment” toward the south-southeast zone. The Mondego Sul area is mainly contaminated in U and As, but also in Co, Cu, Pb and Sb. The Mortórios area is less contaminated than the Mondego Sul area.

Graphic abstract


Raw data Compositional data Spatial analysis Health risks Open pit lake Dumps 



This research was supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia through projects UID/GEO/04035/201C and UID/MAR/04292/2013-MARE (PPC). Boente obtained a grant from the “Formación del Profesorado Universitario” program, financed by the “Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte de España.” M.T.D Albuquerque acknowledges a scholarship 567 SFRH/BSAB/127907/2016 from the Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. R. Neiva
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. T. D. Albuquerque
    • 3
  • I. M. H. R. Antunes
    • 4
    Email author
  • P. C. S. Carvalho
    • 5
  • A. C. T. Santos
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Boente
    • 6
  • P. P. Cunha
    • 2
    • 5
  • S. B. A. Henriques
    • 7
  • R. L. Pato
    • 8
  1. 1.GeoBioTec, Department of GeosciencesUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Qualidade de Vida e o Mundo Rural (QRural) Research CenterInstituto Politécnico de Castelo BrancoCastelo BrancoPortugal
  4. 4.ICTUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  5. 5.MARE – Marine and Environmental Science CentreUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  6. 6.INDUROT and Environmental Technology, Biotechnology, and Geochemistry GroupUniversidad de OviedoMieresSpain
  7. 7.Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia (LNEG)AlfragidePortugal
  8. 8.Research Centre for Natural Resources, Environment and Society, Agrarian SchoolPolytechnic Institute of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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