Geochemistry for Sustainable Development in Africa: Zimbabwe Case Study

  • M. L. Meck


Geochemistry is the geology and chemistry concerned with the chemical composition of, and chemical reactions taking place within, the Earth’s crust. While the geology and chemistry of Africa is known the chemical reactions that are taking place are not fully documented yet if documented the geochemistry can be used as a tool for sustainable development in Africa. Most of Africa is in tropical and subtropical regions where a long history of chemical weathering takes place thus changing the surface chemistry and making it particularly fragile. A case study from Zimbabwe is presented here to illustrate how geochemistry can be used for sustainable development of Africa. The study assessed tailings dumps’ potential to cause environmental problems related to their geochemistry. An overview of the general levels of potential toxic elements in different dump types is given by this study and the types of dumps and mines that are associated with certain risk elements are outlined. As Africa has the largest tropical area of any continent, it is likely to have many chemical weathering taking place thus a need to continuously study its geochemistry. A catalogue of information regarding Zimbabwean tailings dumps and their geochemistry as well as characteristic of immediate environment was constructed as part of a Masters study. This information was used to predict and model possible dispersion and pollution patterns that are likely to result from the tailings dumps found in the country. Possible environmental problems related to the geochemistry of the dumps are outlined. Different stakeholders who may need to redress problems associated with mine tailings dumps in Zimbabwe can use the information gathered during the course of this study. Short-and long-term impacts of the mines and their waste can also be deduced from the information. The results from this research indicate significantly higher levels of potentially toxic elements in the base metals, minor metals, gold, sulphur and platinum group metal dumps compared to the soils around these dumps. The levels most of potentially toxic elements encountered within the dumps during the course of this study have significant implications to the mining industry and particularly to tailings disposal in terms of the potential to pollute the environment. The major output of the study is data that can be used for sustainable development in ways of managing the environment to ensure continual existence of the mining industry in a sustainable way.


Base Metal Acid Mine Drainage Natural Background Platinum Group Element Minor Metal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Bennett MW, Kempton PJ, Maley A (1997) Application of geological block models to environmental management. In proceedings of the fourth International Conference on Acid Rock Drainage, Vancouver, Canada, May 31 June 1997, pp 293–303Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Chihota JS (1995) Distribution of Arsenic and related heavy metals around a gold mine in Zimbabwe. Environmental engineering, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden (Unpublished M.Sc thesis)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    DWAF (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) (1996) South Africa water quality guidelines 1: domestic use 2nd edition. Government Printer, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Engdahl D, Hedenvind H (1998) Environmental impacts caused by small-scale alluvial gold mining. Environmental Engineering Department Royal Institute of Technology. Stockholm (Unpublished M.Sc Thesis)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lupankwa K, Love D, Mapani B, Mseka Sd Meck M (2006) Influence of the trojan Nickel Mine on Surface water quality, Mazowe Valley, Zimbabwe: runoff chemistry and acid generation potential of waste rock. Phys Chem Earth 31(2006):789–796Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mandingaisa O (1998) Effects of evaporation ponds on groundwater: AMD disposal at Iron Duke Mine Glendale Zimbabwe. geology department university of Zimbabwe (Unpublished B.Sc Honours Thesis)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mangwiro B (1998) Characterizing the source, type of placer accumulation and environmentally sustainable production of gold In: The Angwa River NW Zimbabwe geology department university of Zimbabwe (Unpublished B.Sc Honours Thesis)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Maponga OP (1995) Gold Panning along mazowe river and its tributaries. University of Zimbabwe. (Unpublished Institute of Mining Research. Confidential Report C669)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Maponga OP (2000) Self-regulation and environmental management in the mining industry in Zimbabwe—a survey of issues. Abstract in environmental issues and management of waste in energy and mineral production. In: Singhal RK, Mehrotra AN, Balkema AA (Eds) Rotterdam. BrookfieldGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    McBride MB (1994) Environmental chemistry of soils. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mend A (1989) Field sampling manual for reactive sulphide tailings. mine environment neutral drainage (MEND) Program Report 4.1.1 Prepared by Canect Environmental Control Technologies LimitedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Meurig PJ (1987) Applied mineralogy: a quantitative approach mineral resources. Engineering Department. Imperial College, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mohiddin HL (1997) Small scale mining and gold panning in Zimbabwe Institute of Ecology and Resource Management University of Edinburgh. (Unpubl M.Sc Thesis)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ngwenya G (1997) Environmental effects of mining and mine waste disposal at a mining complex in the midlands greenstone belt. Geology Department University of Zimbabwe. (Unpublished B.Sc Honours Thesis)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ravengai S (2001) Evaluation of seepage and acid generation potential from evaporation ponds: implications and management options for water quality and aquatic life. Iron Duke Mine, Mazowe district Zimbabwe. Geology Department University of Zimbabwe. (Unpublished B.Sc Honours Thesis)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Roberts AE (1996) Environmental impact of chromite mining. institute of mining research. University of Zimbabwe Report 159:38–39Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Runnells DD, Smelds MJ Jones RL (1997) Methodology for adequacy of sampling of mill tailings and mine waste rock. In proceedings of Tailings and Mine Waste 97. Rotterdam: Balkema, pp 561–563Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ruzive B (2000) An assessment of the contribution of mine dumps to siltation and Environmental pollution by Heavy metals in Mtorashanga Northern Great Dyke Geology Department University Of Zimbabwe. (Unpublished B.Sc Honours Thesis)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Smith KS, Ramsey CA, Hageman P (2000) Sampling strategy for the rapid screening of mine waste dumps on abandoned mine lands.
  20. 20.
    Soltanpour PN (1991) Determination of nutrient availability and elemental toxicity by AB-DTPA Soil test and ICPS in advances in soil science vol 16 Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Soltanpour PN, Schwab AP (1977) A new soil test for simultaneous extraction of macro and micronutrients in alkaline soils. Commu Soil Sci Plant Anal 8(3):195–207Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Thixton DH (1999) Managing mercury in mining. Chamb mines J 1999Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Watkins R (2000) Environmental geochemistry of mining pollution: University of Zimbabwe. (Unpublished Geology Department course notes for Environmental Geochemistry)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe

Personalised recommendations