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Impact of nickel mining and metallurgical activities on the distribution of heavy metals in sediments of Levisa, Cabonico and Nipe Bays, Cuba


At MayarÕ zone, northeast Cuba, important lateritic deposits have been exploited since 1943. The mineral is used as raw material in a nickel-processing plant which discharges its untreated solid and liquid wastes into Levisa Bay. Similarly to the adjacent Nipe and Cabonico bays, fluvial currents from the mining areas convey a significant mineral load into this bay. To assess the environmental impact caused by the mining and the metallurgical activities, the distribution of Ni, Co, Fe, Mn, Cu, Pb and Zn was investigated in surface and core sediment samples. Uni- and multivariate statistical methods as well as different indices and pollutant factors were used to interpret results. These revealed significant environmental impacts in some areas of the three bays with high concentrations of Ni, Co, Fe and Mn, whose values are up to two orders of magnitude greater than the zone baseline levels. The metal concentrations decreased with increasing distance from discharges. A comparison with other Cuban bays and coastal zones, confirmed that the main source of metal pollution in these three bays was not urban and industrial activities, but lateritic mining and metallurgy.

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Correspondence to Humberto GonzÄlez.

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GonzÄlez, H., RamÕrez, M. & Torres, I. Impact of nickel mining and metallurgical activities on the distribution of heavy metals in sediments of Levisa, Cabonico and Nipe Bays, Cuba. Environmental Geochemistry and Health 19, 57–62 (1997).

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  • Pollution
  • sediments
  • heavy metals
  • Cuban bays
  • lateritic mining
  • metallurgy