Geological and Environmental Engineering | Article | Published 2018-05-01
The assessment of potential trace metal(loid) contamination in tailing dumps and soils was characterized in the Chadak mining area (Uzbekistan). Concentrations of trace elements (V, Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Cd, Sb, Pb) were determined by X-ray fluorescence analysis and compared with background and intervention values (IV). The concentrations of As, Zn, Sb, and Pb were higher in the abandoned than in the active tailing dump, ranging from 42–1689 mg/kg for As, 73–332 mg/kg for Zn, 14–1507 mg/kg for Sb, and 27–386 mg/kg for Pb. Selective extractions were applied in order to assess the mobility and availability of trace metal(loid)s in samples. Oxyanionforming elements such as As and Sb were immobilized by Fe oxides, although to some extent also extractable with acetic acid and soluble-in-water forms were detected, indicating potential bioavailability that can impose a potential toxicity risk for the environment. Selective extractions data also showed that Zn and Pb were relatively immobile, although in higher contamination sites significant amounts of these elements were also extractable with acetic acid. In tailing materials Zn and Pb mobility were negatively correlated by the cation-exchange capacity (CEC) and clay content, indicating the importance of these factors in the reduction of the potential toxicity for these elements. Total concentration of As, Sb, and Pb were also negatively correlated with soil pH, indicating that the oxidation process of sulphide tailings and thus the generation of acidic conditions may lead to release of contaminants over time. However, due to the calcium carbonate content, the acid neutralization capacity of the tailings is not yet exhausted and contaminant concentrations in soil-pore water are still relatively low. The results of our investigation suggest that environmental risk associated with these wastes in semi-arid climate is therefore not a short-term problem but rather requires constant monitoring and additional ecotoxicological studies.