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Natural Resources Research

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 1485–1503 | Cite as

Mineralogy and Geochemistry of Rural Road Dust and Nearby Mine Tailings: A Case of Ignored Pollution Hazard from an Abandoned Mining Site in Semi-arid Zone

  • Rafael Del Rio-Salas
  • Yessi Ayala-Ramírez
  • René Loredo-Portales
  • Francisco Romero
  • Francisco Molina-Freaner
  • Christian Minjarez-Osorio
  • Teresa Pi-Puig
  • Lucas Ochoa–Landín
  • Verónica Moreno-RodríguezEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Abandoned mine tailings are considered as one of the main sources of potentially toxic elements. Because of the lack of supervision, particularly from small-scale or artisanal mining, abandoned tailings have become part of the natural landscape, especially in rural areas from developing countries. Abandoned mine tailings represent a latent problem in terms of the possible affectations to human health and the environment. An example of this is the small-sized (~ 200 × ~ 300 m) abandoned mine tailings located ~ 500 m south of San Felipe de Jesus town, Sonora, in northwestern Mexico. The mineralogy determined in mine tailings samples consists of divalent hydrated metal sulfates (rozenite, starkeyite, kieserite, szomolnokite and epsomite), trivalent hydrated metal sulfates (coquimbite) and divalent-trivalent hydrated sulfates (copiapite), which are highly soluble efflorescent minerals associated with acid mine drainage. Rozenite was detected in road dust samples, evidencing that dust is dispersed and transported from abandoned residues. In order to assess the possible impact of the tailings (un-oxidized, oxidized, efflorescent minerals), concentrations of potentially toxic elements (total and soluble fractions) in samples from mine tailings, unpaved road soils and road dust from San Felipe de Jesús were determined. Average concentrations (ppm) of potential toxic elements in mine tailings samples ranged from 16,756–1306 (As), 665–98 (Cd), 5691–338 (Cu), 14,162–832 (Pb), 492–82 (Sb), 176,219–8285 (Zn). Enrichment factors determined in mine tailings, agricultural soils and road dust exhibit similar patterns, differing only in level of enrichment, which also confirms the dispersion of potentially toxic elements toward surroundings. Contamination Index (CI) and Hazard Average Quotient (HAQ) were calculated in mine tailings to assess potential contamination associated with potentially toxic elements dispersed by aeolian and/or hydric processes, respectively. The CI values suggest that mine tailing materials have a high potential for polluting soils and sediments. Semi-arid conditions of the region favor the suspension and transport of contaminants, potentially affecting surrounding agricultural fields and population. The HAQ values from efflorescence minerals and mine tailings indicate that potential of toxicity is very high, and might affect the quality of water (groundwater and surficial) in the region. CI and HAQ can provide a good estimation of pollution hazards associated with the abandoned mine tailings in the San Felipe de Jesús area.

Keywords

Abandoned mine tailings Potential contamination Efflorescence crusts Dispersion Semi-arid region 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This investigation was partially supported by Project IA209616 (PAPIIT-UNAM) Granted to R. Del Rio-Salas. We are thankful to J.F. Martínez Rodríguez, A. Vázquez-Salgado and L.G. Martínez-Jardines for laboratory support.

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© International Association for Mathematical Geosciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Del Rio-Salas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yessi Ayala-Ramírez
    • 1
  • René Loredo-Portales
    • 3
  • Francisco Romero
    • 2
    • 4
  • Francisco Molina-Freaner
    • 1
  • Christian Minjarez-Osorio
    • 5
  • Teresa Pi-Puig
    • 2
    • 6
  • Lucas Ochoa–Landín
    • 7
  • Verónica Moreno-Rodríguez
    • 8
    Email author
  1. 1.Estación Regional del Noroeste, Instituto de GeologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoHermosilloMexico
  2. 2.Laboratorio Nacional de Geoquímica y Mineralogía-LANGEMMexico CityMexico
  3. 3.CONACYT-Estación Regional del Noroeste, Instituto de GeologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoHermosilloMexico
  4. 4.Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales y del Suelo Departamento de Geoquímica, Instituto de GeologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  5. 5.Department of Scientific and Technological ResearchUniversity of SonoraHermosilloMexico
  6. 6.Departamento de Procesos Litosféricos, Instituto de GeologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  7. 7.Departamento de Geología, División de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de SonoraHermosilloMexico
  8. 8.Ingeniería en GeocienciasUniversidad Estatal de SonoraHermosilloMexico

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