Abandoned metalliferous mines: ecological impacts and potential approaches for reclamation

  • Kadiyala Venkateswarlu
  • Ramkrishna Nirola
  • Saranya Kuppusamy
  • Palanisami Thavamani
  • Ravi Naidu
  • Mallavarapu Megharaj
review paper


The lack of awareness for timely management of the environment surrounding a metal mine site results in several adverse consequences such as rampant business losses, abandoning the bread-earning mining industry, domestic instability and rise in ghost towns, increased environmental pollution, and indirect long-term impacts on the ecosystem. Although several abandoned mine lands (AMLs) exist globally, information on these derelict mines has not been consolidated in the literature. We present here the state-of-the-art on AMLs in major mining countries with emphasis on their impact towards soil health and biodiversity, remediation methods, and laws governing management of mined sites. While reclamation of metalliferous mines by phytoremediation is still a suitable option, there exist several limitations for its implementation. However, many issues of phytoremediation at the derelict mines can be resolved following phytostabilization, a technology that is effective also at the modern operational mine sites. The use of transgenic plant species in phytoremediation of metals in contaminated sites is also gaining momentum. In any case, monitoring and efficacy testing for bioremediation of mined sites is essential. The approaches for reclamation of metalliferous mines such as environmental awareness, effective planning and assessment of pre- and post-mining activities, implementation of regulations, and a safe and good use of phytostabilizers among the native plants for revegetation and ecological restoration are discussed in detail in the present review. We also suggest the use of microbially-enhanced phytoremediation and nanotechnology for efficient reclamation of AMLs, and identify future work warranted in this area of research. Further, we believe that the integration of science of remediation with mining policies and regulations is a reliable option which when executed can virtually balance economic development and environmental destruction for safer future.


Abandoned metal mines Heavy metal pollution Reclamation Phytoremediation Phytostabilization Soil health 



KV thanks the Government of Australia (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) for the Endeavour Executive Award, and RN acknowledges UniSA, Adelaide for providing APA scholarship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kadiyala Venkateswarlu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ramkrishna Nirola
    • 1
  • Saranya Kuppusamy
    • 1
  • Palanisami Thavamani
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ravi Naidu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mallavarapu Megharaj
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and RemediationUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Global Centre for Environmental Remediation (GCER), Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of Environment (CRCCARE), Faculty of Science and Information TechnologyThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Life SciencesSri Krishnadevaraya UniversityAnantapurIndia

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