Abandoned Pb-Zn mining wastes and their mobility as proxy to toxicity: A review


Lead and zinc (PbZn) mines are a common occurrence worldwide; and while approximately 240 mines are active, the vast majority have been abandoned for decades. Abandoned mining wastes represent a serious environmental hazard, as Pb, Zn and associated metals are continuously released into the environment, threatening the health of humans and affecting ecosystems. Iron sulfide minerals, when present, can form acid mine drainage and increase the toxicity by mobilizing the metals into more bioavailable forms. Remediation of the metal waste is costly and, in the case of abandoned wastes, the responsible party(ies) for the cleanup can be difficult to determine, which makes remediation a complex and lengthy process. In this review, we provide a common ground from a wide variety of investigations about concentrations, chemical associations, and potential mobility of Pb, Zn and cadmium (Cd) near abandoned PbZn mines. Comparing mobility results is a challenging task, as instead of one standard methodology, there are 4-5 different methods reported. Results show that, as a general consensus, the metal content of soils and sediments vary roughly around 1000 mg/kg for Zn, 100 for Pb and 10 for Cd, and mobilities of Cd > Zn > Pb. Also, mobility is a function of pH, particle size, and formation of secondary minerals. New and novel remediation techniques continue to be developed in laboratories but have seldom been applied to the field. Remediation at most of the sites has consisted of neutralization (e.g. lime,) for acid mine discharge, and leveling followed by phytostabilization. In the latter, amendments (e.g. biochar, fertilizers) are added to boost the efficiency of the treatment. Any remediation method has to be tested before being implemented as the best treatment is site-specific. Potential treatments are described and compared.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type





abandoned mines, bioavailability, cadmium, lead, sequential extraction, zinc

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Journal Title

Science of the Total Environment