Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 5, pp 2029–2041 | Cite as

Metal and metalloid leaching from tailings into streamwater and sediments in the old Ag–Pb–Zn Terramonte mine, northern Portugal

  • P. C. S. CarvalhoEmail author
  • A. M. R. Neiva
  • M. M. V. G. Silva
  • I. M. H. R. Antunes
Original Article


Tailings deposited over the Castanheira, a stream which flows through the old Ag–Pb–Zn Terramonte mine area, showed a great potential environmental risk due to sulphide weathering, facilitated by the tailings–water interaction. The high concentrations of Al, Fe, Pb and Zn in the tailings are associated with the exchangeable, reducible and sulphide fractions and suggest sphalerite and pyrite occurrences. Oxidation of pyrite is responsible for the low pH values (3.38–4.89) of the tailings. The water from the Castanheira stream is not suitable for human consumption due to high concentrations of SO4 2−, Mn, Al, Cd, Ni, and Pb. The lowest concentrations of metals and metalloids were detected in downstream stretches of the Castanheira. However, As, Fe and Zn in deeper sediments tend to increase downstream. Significant concentrations of trivalent forms of arsenic were detected in water samples. In downstream stretches of the Castanheira, some free ions (Fe2+, Mn2+ and Zn2+) also predominate and the water is saturated with ferrihydrite, goethite, hematite, lepidocrosite and magnetite.


Tailings Stream sediments Waters As speciation Old Ag–Pb–Zn Terramonte mine 



This paper represents a part of the PhD thesis of P.C.S. Carvalho. Thanks are due to Prof. Andrew Parker, Dr. Martin Heaps and Dr. Anne Stephanie Dudley for use of facilities in the Department of Soil Sciences of the University of Reading, UK.; Prof. Dirk Wallschläger of Trent University, Canada for arsenic speciation in water samples; Carlos Maia of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal for his help with XRD identifications. Funding was provided to P. C. S. Carvalho by the SFRH/BD/21373/2005 Grant from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal. Financial support was also provided by the Portuguese Government for the project PEST-OE/CTE/UI0073/2011 of the Geosciences Centre through FCT. Very helpful and thorough journal reviews were provided by Prof. Anshumali. We are also grateful to Prof. Gunter Doerhoefer and Prof. Olaf Kolditz for their helpful comments.

Supplementary material

12665_2013_2605_MOESM1_ESM.doc (122 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 141 kb)
12665_2013_2605_MOESM2_ESM.doc (218 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 208 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. C. S. Carvalho
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. M. R. Neiva
    • 1
  • M. M. V. G. Silva
    • 1
  • I. M. H. R. Antunes
    • 2
  1. 1.Geosciences Centre and Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.CVRM, Geossytems Centre and Polytechnic Institute of Castelo BrancoCastelo BrancoPortugal

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