Mine tailing disposal sites: contamination problems, remedial options and phytocaps for sustainable remediation

Abstract

Mining practices and the absence of proper mine land reclamation has led to heavy metal contaminated sites with serious impact on the ecosystems and risk for human health. The origin of the contamination is often associated to mine tailing deposits because they are a source of the acid mine drainage (AMD). These areas are devoid of vegetation due to the harsh soil conditions that prevent the rooting of plant species. The remediation of these areas followed by revegetation is necessary to suppress the generation of the AMD and its negative effects on the ecosystems. Conventional remediation technologies for heavy metal contaminated sites are usually not applicable because of the high cost associated with chemicals and energy requirements, as well as the long treatment time to remediate large areas. In this study, the use of phytocapping for the remediation of mine tailing deposits and abandoned mine areas is reviewed. Phytocapping is cost effective, environmentally friendly and has multifunctional role against various problems of mine tailings: it provides erosion control, landscape rehabilitation, enhances the soil properties for further colonization of other more demanding vegetal species, reduces the leachability of metals downwards the groundwater, and favors the immobilization of metals forming less bioavailable species. The most critical step in phytocapping is the developing of the first vegetative cover because of the biotoxicity of the mine soil and mine tailings. Several amendment materials can be used to ameliorate soil conditions creating a favorable environment for the rooting of plants, as well as serving as a source of nutrients. Local plant species with fast growing are preferable because their adaptation to the soil and climate conditions favors their self-propagation.

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Acknowledgements

The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) awarded a fellowship to Oznur Karaca, which made it possible to conduct this research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Claudio Cameselle was awarded Fulbright Scholar (Ministry of Education, Spain, Program Salvador de Madariaga, ref: PRX16/00282) at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Karaca, O., Cameselle, C. & Reddy, K.R. Mine tailing disposal sites: contamination problems, remedial options and phytocaps for sustainable remediation. Rev Environ Sci Biotechnol 17, 205–228 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11157-017-9453-y

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Keywords

  • Phytoremediation
  • Phytoextraction
  • Phytostabilization
  • Phytocapping
  • Heavy metals
  • Mine tailings