Environmental assessment of abandoned mine tailings in Adak, Västerbotten district (northern Sweden)

Bhattacharya, A., Routha, J., Jacks, G., Bhattacharya, P., Mörth, M.
Applied Geochemistry


Sulfide-rich mine tailings in Adak that are exposed to weathering cause acid mine drainage characterized by low pH (2–4) and high SO4 (up to 800 mg L−1). Surface water, sediment and soil samples collected in this study contain higher concentrations of As, Cu, Fe and Zn, compared to the target and/or intervention limits set by international regulatory agencies. In particular, high As concentrations in water (up to 2900 μg L−1) and sediment (up to 900 mg kg−1) are of concern. There is large variability in trace element concentrations, implying that both physical (grain size) and chemical factors (pH, secondary phases as sulfides, Al-oxides or clay minerals) play an important role in their distribution. The low pH keeps the trace elements dissolved, and they are transported farther downstream. Trace element partition coefficients are low (log Kd = 0.3–4.3), and saturation indices calculated with PHREEQC are <0 for common oxide and sulfidic minerals. The sediment and soil samples indicate an enhanced pollution index (up to 17), and high enrichment factors for trace elements (As up to 38,300; Zn up to 800). Finally, leaves collected from different plant types indicate bioaccumulation of several elements (As, Al, Cu, Fe and Zn). However, some of the plants growing in this area (e.g., Salix, Equisétum) are generally resistant to metal toxicity, and hence, liming and phytoremediation could be considered as potential on-site remediation methods.


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