A critical review on environmental implications, recycling strategies, and ecological remediation for mine tailings


Mine tailings, generated from the extraction, processing, and utilization of mineral resources, have resulted in serious acid mine drainage (AMD) pollution. Recently, scholars are paying more attention to two alternative strategies for resource recovery and ecological reclamation of mine tailings that help to improve the current tailing management, and meanwhile reduce the negative environmental outcomes. This review suggests that the principles of geochemical evolution may provide new perspective for the future in-depth studies regarding the pollution control and risk management. Recent advances in three recycling approaches of tailing resources, termed metal recovery, agricultural fertilizer, and building materials, are further described. These recycling strategies are significantly conducive to decrease the mine tailing stocks for problematic disposal. In this regard, the future recycling approaches should be industrially applicable and technically feasible to achieve the sustainable mining operation. Finally, the current state of tailing phytoremediation technologies is also discussed, while identification and selection of the ideal plants, which is perceived to be the excellent candidates of tailing reclamation, should be the focus of future studies. Based on the findings and perspectives of this review, the present study can act as an important reference for the academic participants involved in this promising field.

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The authors are very grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their revising suggestions.


This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41603117).

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Xu, DM., Zhan, CL., Liu, HX. et al. A critical review on environmental implications, recycling strategies, and ecological remediation for mine tailings. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 35657–35669 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-06555-3

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  • Mine tailings
  • Environmental implications
  • Recycling strategies
  • Phytoremediation