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Water Quality Assessment of the Mining-Impacted Elqui River Basin, Chile

Wassergüte des Bergbaulich Beeinflußten Elqui-Flußbeckens in Chile

Relevamiento de la Calidad del Agua de la Cuenca, impactada por la Minería, del Río Elqui en Chile

受采矿影响的智利 埃尔基河 (Elqi River, Chile)流域水质评价


Multivariate data analysis techniques were used to identify the interrelationships between the physical–chemical analyses of 22 parameters sampled monthly from 1991 to 2007 at 16 monitoring stations along the Elqui river and its tributaries to characterize the scale of the geogenic and anthropogenic impacts on the river’s water quality. Principal component analysis was used to identify the differences and similarities between variables in the watershed. Factorial indices, computed to highlight the sections of the river and tributaries more influenced by hydrothermal, mining or agricultural activities, made it possible to synthesize groups of parameters with similar characteristics into a single value.


Von 1991 bis 2007 wurden an 16 Beobachtungstationen entlang des Elqui-Flusses und seinen Zuflüssen monatlich 22 physiko-chemische Parameter gemessen. Der Grad geogener und anthropogener Einflüsse auf die Wasserqualität wurde mit multivariaten Analysen untersucht. Hauptkomponentenanalyse wurde angewendet, um Unterschiede und Ähnlichkeiten zwischen Variablen in dem Wassereinzugsgebiet zu identifizieren. Um Abschnitte des Flusses und seiner Zuflüsse mit stärkerem Einfluß hydrothermaler, bergaulicher oder landwirtschaftlicher Aktivitäten hervorzuheben, wurden faktorielle Kennzahlen berechnet. Damit war es möglich, Gruppen von Parametern ähnlicher Besonderheiten in einen Einzelwert zusammenzuführen.


Se utilizaron técnicas de análisis multivariante para identificar las relaciones entre los análisis de 22 parámetros fisicoquímicos obtenidos mensualmente desde 1991 hasta 2007 en 16 estaciones de monitorio a lo largo del Río Elqui y sus tributarios, en función de caracterizar de la escala de los impactos geogénicos y antropogénicos sobre la calidad del agua del río. El análisis de componentes principales (PCA) fue usado para identificar las diferencias y similitudes entre variables de la cuenca. Los índices factoriales, estimados para destacar las zonas del río y sus tributarios más influida por las actividades minerales, hidrotérmicas o agrícolas, permitieron reunir grupos de parámetros con similares características dentro de un solo valor.



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The authors are greatly indebted to the Dirección General de Aguas de Chile (Ministerio de Obras Públicas) for allowing the use of their data files This study was prepared in the context of the project CAMINAR–“Catchment Management and Mining Impacts in Arid and Semi-arid South America”, and co-funded by the European Commission under its 6th Framework Programme of International Cooperation, contract INCO-CT2006-032539. The information in this document is provided without any guarantee or warranty that it is useful for any particular purpose. Users of the information do so solely at their own risk and liability. This document does not represent the official policy or views of the European Commission, Parliament, or Council.

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Ribeiro, L., Kretschmer, N., Nascimento, J. et al. Water Quality Assessment of the Mining-Impacted Elqui River Basin, Chile. Mine Water Environ 33, 165–176 (2014).

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  • Acid drainage
  • Arid zones
  • Elqui river
  • Mining pollution
  • PCA