Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 7837–7853 | Cite as

Acid mine drainage in the Iberian Pyrite Belt: 2. Lessons learned from recent passive remediation experiences

  • Carlos Ayora
  • Manuel A. Caraballo
  • Francisco Macias
  • Tobias S. Rötting
  • Jesús Carrera
  • Jose-Miguel Nieto
Mining and the Environment - Understanding Processes, Assessing Impacts and Developing Remediation


The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB), SW Spain and Portugal, contains about 100 abandoned mine wastes and galleries that release acid mine drainages (AMD) to the Tinto and Odiel rivers. In situ passive remediation technologies are especially suitable to remediate the drainages of these orphan sites. However, traditional remediation systems, designed for coal mines, have been demonstrated inefficient to treat the IPB mine waters. Due to their high acidity and metal loads, large amount of solids precipitate and fast clogging of porosity or passivation (coating) of the reactive grains occurs. To overcome these problems, the dispersed alkaline substrate (DAS) a mixture of fine-grained limestone sand and a coarse inert matrix (e.g., wood shavings) was developed. The small grains provide a large reactive surface and dissolve almost completely before the growing layer of precipitates passivates the substrate. The high porosity retards clogging. However, calcite dissolution only raises pH to values around 6.5, at which the hydroxides of trivalent metals (Al and Fe) precipitate, but it is not high enough to remove divalent metals. Caustic magnesia (MgO) buffers the solution pH between 8.5 and 10. A DAS system replacing limestone with caustic magnesia has been tested to be very efficient to remove divalent metals (Zn, Cd, Mn, Cu, Co, Ni, and Pb) from the water previously treated with calcite.


Mine water Passive treatment Dispersed alkaline substrate Limestone Caustic magnesia Schwertmannite Hydrobasaluminite Hydrozincite 



This study was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology through the project CTM2010-21956-C02 and by the Environmental Council of the Andalusia Regional Government. M. A. C. was financially supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education and the Post-doctoral International Mobility Sub-programme I+D+i 2008–2011.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Ayora
    • 1
  • Manuel A. Caraballo
    • 2
  • Francisco Macias
    • 3
  • Tobias S. Rötting
    • 4
  • Jesús Carrera
    • 1
  • Jose-Miguel Nieto
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, CSICBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeologyUniversity of HuelvaHuelvaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Geotechnical Engineering and Geo-SciencesTechnical University of Catalonia BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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