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Hydrochemical characteristics of mine waters from abandoned mining sites in Serbia and their impact on surface water quality


Upon completion of exploration and extraction of mineral resources, many mining sites have been abandoned without previously putting environmental protection measures in place. As a consequence, mine waters originating from such sites are discharged freely into surface water. Regional scale analyses were conducted to determine the hydrochemical characteristics of mine waters from abandoned sites featuring metal (Cu, Pb–Zn, Au, Fe, Sb, Mo, Bi, Hg) deposits, non-metallic minerals (coal, Mg, F, B) and uranium. The study included 80 mine water samples from 59 abandoned mining sites. Their cation composition was dominated by Ca2+, while the most common anions were found to be SO4 2− and HCO3 . Strong correlations were established between the pH level and metal (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu) concentrations in the mine waters. Hierarchical cluster analysis was applied to parameters generally indicative of pollution, such as pH, TDS, SO4 2−, Fe total, and As total. Following this approach, mine water samples were grouped into three main clusters and six subclusters, depending on their potential environmental impact. Principal component analysis was used to group together variables that share the same variance. The extracted principal components indicated that sulfide oxidation and weathering of silicate and carbonate rocks were the primary processes, while pH buffering, adsorption and ion exchange were secondary drivers of the chemical composition of the analyzed mine waters. Surface waters, which received the mine waters, were examined. Analysis showed increases of sulfate and metal concentrations and general degradation of surface water quality.

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This research was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (as a part of the project no. 43004) and Ministry of Environment, Mining and Spatial Planning.

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Correspondence to Nebojša Atanacković.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Atanacković, N., Dragišić, V., Stojković, J. et al. Hydrochemical characteristics of mine waters from abandoned mining sites in Serbia and their impact on surface water quality. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 7615–7626 (2013).

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  • Mine waters
  • Abandoned mines
  • Hydrochemistry
  • HCA
  • PCA
  • Serbia