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Regional-scale screening of groundwater pollution risk induced by historical mining activities in Serbia

Abstract

Europe has a long mining history, with some mining sites dating back to prehistoric times. Mining activities have boosted industrial development in many European countries; however, on the other hand, they left behind large degraded areas and polluted sites. This mining heritage, from small-scale mines to large industrial mining complexes, adversely affects natural resources and the environment. Exploration and mining of mineral ores have been quite extensive in Serbia. Most exploited were as follows: coal, copper, Pb–Zn ores, accompanying gold and silver and antimony. Groundwater resources are frequently impacted by mining operations, both during mining activities and after mine closure. For proper protection and management of groundwater resources, it is necessary to identify and characterize pollution sources within groundwater bodies. Abandoned mining sites, along with associated facilities for the preparation and processing of ores, waste rock disposal sites and tailings, constitute potential hazards and can have a negative effect on groundwater quality. This paper describes a methodology developed for regional-scale screening of the groundwater pollution risk from abandoned mining sites. As a first step, intrinsic groundwater vulnerability was assessed on the basis of readily available data. As potential polluters, 59 abandoned mining sites were included in the analysis. The hazard identification process comprised physical characterization of mining sites and hydrochemical assessment of mine water originating from those sites. A simple indexing method was developed for hazard and risk quantification. To assess the spatial distribution of the groundwater pollution risk, all data were incorporated and analyzed in a GIS environment. As a result of initial screening, several abandoned, mostly metallic mines were found to have higher-risk ratings for groundwater contamination. The methodology based on examples from Serbia can also be used in other regions for developing management strategies and directing of remediation activities.

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Acknowledgments

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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This article is a part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on “Groundwater Vulnerability”, edited by Dr. Andrzej Witkowski

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Atanacković, N., Dragišić, V., Živanović, V. et al. Regional-scale screening of groundwater pollution risk induced by historical mining activities in Serbia. Environ Earth Sci 75, 1152 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-016-5983-9

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Keywords

  • Mine water
  • Abandoned mine
  • Risk assessment
  • Groundwater contamination
  • Serbia