Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 175, Issue 1–4, pp 149–161 | Cite as

The Effects of Platinum Mining on the Environment from a Soil Microbial Perspective

  • M. S. MaboetaEmail author
  • S. Claassens
  • L. van Rensburg
  • P. J. Jansen van Rensburg


Environmental pressure from mining activities such as those from the platinum sector occurs through the fine-grounded slurry from the processing plants, with its associated extracting chemicals that reach the tailings disposal facility (TDF). It is important that the effects of these activities on the environment are examined, especially in South Africa where there is a general paucity on data pertaining to pollution from platinum mining. The aim of this study was to do a preliminary assessment of the possible effects of platinum TDFs on the surrounding soil environment from a microbial perspective that might be used as a possible indicator in future environmental assessment studies. This was achieved by using enzymatic analyses (β-glucosidase, urease, phosphatase and dehydrogenase activity) and signature lipid biomarkers.

From a soil physical perspective there was a significant difference between the soil at the TDF site in comparison to the sites situated further along (increasing distances away from TDF) the area investigated. Chemically the soil on the TDF had higher C, N, NH4 and K levels in comparison to the other sampling sites as well as higher Cu and Ni levels. Results from the enzymatic activities indicated a decrease in activity further away from the TDF although the sampling site the furthest away from the TDF had the highest viable biomass as indicated by the phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA’s).


enzymatic activity phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) platinum mining platinum tailings 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alef, K., Nannipieri, P. (1995). Methods in applied soil microbiology and biochemistry (576 p). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). (1961). Tentative method for grain-size analysis of soils. In The 1961 book of ASTM standards. ASTM, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  3. Aon, M.A., & Colaneri, A.C. (2001). Temporal and spatial evolution of enzymatic activities and physico- chemical properties in an agricultural soil. Applied Soil Ecology, 18, 255–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ashman, M.R., & Puri, G. (2002). Essential soil science: a clear and concise introduction to soil science (198 p). Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd.Google Scholar
  5. Bandick, A.K., & Dick, R.P. (1999). Field management effects on soil enzyme activities. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 31, 1471–1479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Banwart W.L., Brember J.M., & Tabatabai M.A. (1972). Determination of ammonium in soil extracts and water samples by an ammonia electrode. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 3, 449–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barrett J. (1978). Vogels textbook of quantitive organic analysis. pp. 435–436.Google Scholar
  8. Black, C.A. (1965). Methods of soil analysis. Agronomy Monograph Madison: American Society of Agronomy, 9, 914–926.Google Scholar
  9. Brohon, B., Delolme, C., & Gourdon, R. (2001). Complementarity of bioassays and microbial activity measurements for the evaluation of hydrocarbon-contaminated soils quality. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 33, 883–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dick, R.P. (1994). Soil enzyme activities as indicators of soil quality. In J.W. Doran, D.C. Coleman, D.F. Bezdicek, & B.A. Stewart (Eds.), Defining soil quality for a sustainable environment (pp. 107–124). Madison, WI: SSSA Special Publication 35, Soil Science Society of America.Google Scholar
  11. Dick, R.P., Breakwell, D.P., & Turco, R.F. (1996). Soil enzyme activities and biodiversity measurements as integrative microbiological indicators. In J.W. Doran, & A.J. Jones (Eds.), Methods for assessing soil quality (pp. 247–271). Madison, WI: SSSA Special Publication 49, Soil Science Society of America.Google Scholar
  12. Franzluebbers, A.J., Langdale, G.W., & Schomberg, H.H. (1999). Soil carbon, nitrogen, and aggregation in response to type and frequency of tillage. SSSAJ, 63, 349–355.Google Scholar
  13. Frostegård, A., Petersen, S.O., Baath, A., & Nielsen, T.H. (1997). Dynamics of a microbial community associated with manure hot spots as revealed by phospholipid fatty acid analysis. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 63, 2224–2231.Google Scholar
  14. Guckert, J.B., Antworth, C.P., Nichols, P.D., & White, D.C. (1985). Phospholipid, ester-linked fatty acid profiles as reproducible assays for changes in prokaryotic community structure of estuarine sediments. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 31, 147–158.Google Scholar
  15. Guckert, J.B., Hood, M.A., & White, D.C. (1985). Phospholipid ester-linked fatty acid profile changes during nutrient deprivation of Vibrio cholerae: increases in the trans/cis ratio and proportions of cyclopropyl fatty acids. Applied Environment Microbiology, 52, 794–801.Google Scholar
  16. Heckenberg A.L., Alden P.G., Wildman B.J., Krol J., Romano J.P., Jackson P.E., Jandik P., & Jones W.R. (1989). Water Innovative methods for ion analysis, chap. 5, 1–3. Millipore Corporation. Capillary ion analysis.Google Scholar
  17. Hill, G.T., Mitkowski, N.A., Aldrich-Wolfe, L., Emele, L.R., Jurkonie, D.D., Ficke, A., Maldonado-Ramirez, S., Lynch, S.T., & Nelson, E.B. (2000). Methods for assessing the composition and diversity of soil microbial communities. Applied Soil Ecology, 15, 25–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holtan-Hartwig, L., Bechmann, M., Hoyas, T.R., Linjordet, R., & Bakken, L.R. (2002). Heavy metals tolerance of soil denitrifying communities: N2O dynamics. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 34, 1181–1190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ibekwe, A.M., & Kennedy, A.C. (1998). Phospholipid fatty acid profiles and carbon utilization patterns for analysis of microbial community struture under field and greenhouse conditions. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 26, 151–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kieft, T.L., Ringelberg, D.B., & White, D.C. (1994). Changes in ester-linked phospholipid fatty acid profiles of subsurface bacteria during starvation and desiccation in a porous medium. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 60, 3292–3299.Google Scholar
  21. Lobring L.B., & Booth R.L. (1973). Evaluation of the Auto Analyzer II. A progress report. In Advances in Automated Analysis. Tarrytown, New York: Technicon International Congress. Mediad Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Maboeta M.S., & van Rensburg L. (2003). Vermicomposting of industrially produced woodchips and sewage sludge utilising Eisenia fetida: Effects on growth, reproductive success and heavy metal uptake. Ecotoxicology Environment Safery, 56, 265–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Majer, B.J., Tscherko, D., Paschke, A., Wennrich, R., Kundi, M., Kandeler, E., & Knasmuller, S. (2002). Effects of heavy metal contamination of soils on micronucleus induction in Tradescantia and on microbial enzyme activities: a comparative investigation. Genetic Toxicology Environment Mutagenesis, 515, 111–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nannipieri, P., Sastre, L., Landi, L., Lobo, M.C., & Pietramellara, G. (1996). Determination of extracellular neutral phosphomonoesterase activity in soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 28, 107–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Peacock, A.D., Mullen, M.D., Ringelberg, D.B., Tyler, D.D., Hedrick, D.B., Gale, P.M., & White, D.C. (2001). Soil microbial community responses to dairy manure or ammonium nitrate applications. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 33, 1011–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ponder, F. (Jr.), Tadros, M. (2002). Phospholipid fatty acids in forest soil four years after organic matter removal and soil compaction. Applied Soil Ecology, 19, 173–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Powlson, D.S., Brookes, P.C., & Christensen, B.T. (1987). Measurement of soil microbial biomass provides an early indication of changes in total soil organic matter due to straw incorporation. Soil Biology Biochemistry, 19, 159–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ramiriz-Munoz, J. (1968). Atomic absorption spectroscopy and analysis by atomic absorption flame photometry. New York: Am. Elsevier Publ. Co.Google Scholar
  29. Riffaldi, R., Saviozzi, A., Levi-Minzi, R., & Cardelli, R. (2002). Biochemical properties of a Mediterranean soil as affected by long-term crop management systems. Soil Tillage Research, 67, 109–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rütters, H., Sass, H., Cypionka, H., & Rullkötter, J. (2002). Phospholipid analysis as a tool to study complex microbial communities in marine sediments. Journal of Microbiology Methods, 48, 149–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sannino, F., & Gianfreda, L. (2001). Pesticide influence on soil enzymatic activities. Chemosphere, 45, 417–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Skougstad M.W., Fishman M.J., Friedman L.C., Erdman D.E., & Duncan S.S. (1979). Methods for determination of inorganic substances in water and fluvial sediments. in Techniques of water resources investigation of the United States geological survey. Book 5, chap. A1. U. S. GeologicalSurvey. Washington D. C.Google Scholar
  33. Sparling, G.P. (1997). Soil microbial biomass, activity and nutrient cycling as indicators of soil health. In C. Pankhurst, B.M. Doube, & V.V.S.R. Gupta (Eds.), Biological indicators of soil health (pp. 97–119). New York: CAB International.Google Scholar
  34. Tate, R.L. (III). (2000). Soil microbiology (2nd Ed, 508p). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
  35. Taylor, J.P., Wilson, B., Mills, M.S., & Burns, R.G. (2002). Comparison of microbial numbers and enzymatic activities in surface soils and subsoils using various techniques. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 34, 387–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Turner, B.L., Hopkins, D.W., Haygarth, P.M., & Ostle, N. (2002). β-Glucosidase activity in pasture soils. Applied Soil Ecology, 20, 157–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Van Rensburg, L., De Sousa Correia, R.I., Booysen, J., & Ginster, M. (1998). Revegetation on a coal fine ash disposal site in South Africa. Journal of Environmental Quality, 27, 1479–1486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Waldrop, M.P., Balser, T.C., & Firestone, M.K. (2000). Linking microbial community composition to function in a tropical soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 32, 1837–1846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. White, D.C., & Ringelberg, D.B. (1998). Signature lipid biomarker analysis. In R.S. Burlage, R. Atlas, D. Stahl, G. Geesey, & G. Sayler (Eds.), Techniques in microbial ecology (pp. 255–272). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. White, D.C., Stair, J.O., & Ringelberg, D.B. (1996). Quantitative comparisons of in situ microbial biodiversity by signature biomarker analysis. Journal of Industrial Microbiology, 17, 185–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zelles, L. (1997). Phospholipid fatty acid profiles in selected members of soil microbial communities.Chemosphere, 35, 275–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Maboeta
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. Claassens
    • 1
  • L. van Rensburg
    • 1
  • P. J. Jansen van Rensburg
    • 1
  1. 1.School for Environmental Sciences and DevelopmentNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations