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Special Issue "Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Science and Engineering".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Almudena Ordoñez
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mining Exploration and Prospecting, Universidad de Oviedo, 33003 Oviedo, Spain
Interests: hydrogeology; geothermal use of mine water; environmental implicatons of mining
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Rodrigo Álvarez
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mining Exploration and Prospecting, Universidad de Oviedo, 33003 Oviedo, Spain
Interests: geochemistry; mineralogy and petrology applied to economic geology and environmental issues
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Eduardo De Miguel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Energy and Fuels, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: human health risk assessment; contaminated site assessment; environmental geochemistry
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A Special Issue on Mining and the Environment, in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, is being organized.

Thousands of Mt of nonfuel mineral commodities are removed from the Earth’s crust each year, and tens of thousands of Mt of wastes are being produced annually around the world. The exploitation of mineral resources results in the generation of large volumes of wastes, which are usually disposed of in spoil heaps and tailings ponds on the mining site. Most of the environmental impacts of mining are linked to the release of harmful elements from those wastes. However, properly managed and with adequate controls, mine wastes can be used for backfilling mine workings or for reclamation of mined areas.

Factors such as the local geology, hydrogeology, climate, type of resource, and mine characteristics determine the potentially negative effects of the exploitation. Open pit and underground mining works commonly extend below the water table and require pumping. Currently, mine water is collected and treated, whereas at historic mine sites, uncontrolled discharge of water from adits and wastes leachates may reach receiving water bodies. Anthropogenic inputs of metals and metalloids into local ecosystems as a result of mining have been estimated at several million kilograms per year, posing a potential risk for the health of human receptors and ecosystems. In recent decades, as a response to mounting public pressure and stricter environmental regulations, the mining industry has taken strong actions to minimize its impact on the environment and has invested heavily in newly developed systems to recover resources from wastes and energy from mine water.

This Special Issue welcomes high-quality papers that examine the lights and shadows of the relationship of mining and the environment. We seek contributions from all around the world on the evaluation of effects of mining on local populations and ecosystems, associated risks, and remediation options, as well as on the use of mining wastes and water as resources.

Dr. Almudena Ordoñez
Dr. Rodrigo Álvarez
Dr. Eduardo De Miguel
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Mining
  • Mine waste
  • Mine water
  • Risk assessment
  • Polluted mine site
  • Geochemistry and hydrogeochemistry
  • Reuse of mining waste

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Article
Environmental Impact Assessment in the Former Mining Area of Regoufe (Arouca, Portugal): Contributions to Future Remediation Measures
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(3), 1180; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18031180 - 28 Jan 2021
Viewed by 945
Abstract
The W-Sn Regoufe mine, closed since the 1970s, was once intensively exploited for tungsten concentrates. Throughout its activity, considerable amounts of arsenopyrite-rich mine wastes were produced and, to this day, are still exposed to weathering conditions. Thus, this work aims at assessing soil [...] Read more.
The W-Sn Regoufe mine, closed since the 1970s, was once intensively exploited for tungsten concentrates. Throughout its activity, considerable amounts of arsenopyrite-rich mine wastes were produced and, to this day, are still exposed to weathering conditions. Thus, this work aims at assessing soil contamination, using a combination of chemical, physicochemical and mineralogical analyses and sequential selective chemical extraction of the main potentially toxic elements (PTEs) in topsoils. Results show that Regoufe soils are enriched in most of the PTEs associated with the ore assemblage, but As and Cd contents far outstrip both international and national guidelines. The estimated contamination factor reveals that 67% of soil samples are classified as highly to ultra-highly contaminated. Similar distribution patterns, with the main focus around the unsealed mine adits, are observed when spatially projecting the modified degree of contamination (mCd) and arsenic contents. Fe-oxyhydroxides and organic matter demonstrate to have a preponderant role in the retention of Cd and As. In fact, despite the high PTE contents in soils, local surface waters are characterised by low metal(loid) contents and nearly neutral pH, with PTE concentrations below national thresholds for irrigation waters. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Prediction of Trace Metal Distribution in a Tailings Impoundment Using an Integrated Geophysical and Geochemical Approach (Raibl Mine, Pb-Zn Alpine District, Northern Italy)
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(3), 1157; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18031157 - 28 Jan 2021
Viewed by 959
Abstract
When mines are decommissioned, tailings piles can act as sources of contamination for decades or even centuries. Tailings, which usually contain high concentrations of metals and trace elements, can be reprocessed for a secondary recovery of valuable elements with an innovative approach to [...] Read more.
When mines are decommissioned, tailings piles can act as sources of contamination for decades or even centuries. Tailings, which usually contain high concentrations of metals and trace elements, can be reprocessed for a secondary recovery of valuable elements with an innovative approach to a circular economy. This study offers new results for tailings ponds characterisation and chemical content prediction based on an integrated geophysical-geochemical approach. The study of the Raibl Pb-Zn tailings impoundment was done using bulk chemical analysis on borehole samples, Electrical Resistivity Tomography surveys, and Ground Penetrating Radar measurements. We found valuable and statistically significant correlations between the electrical resistivity of the mining impoundments and the metal distribution, thus providing a practical opportunity to characterise large volumes of metal-bearing tailings. In particular, these results can be useful to aid in the development of environmental monitoring programs for remediation purposes or to implement economic secondary recovery plans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Arsenic in Soils Affected by Mining: Microscopic Studies vs. Sequential Chemical Extraction
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(22), 8426; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17228426 - 14 Nov 2020
Viewed by 633
Abstract
Soil samples from three inactive mines, corresponding to different Arsenic-bearing mineralization types, were collected and studied. The aim was to determine the influence of mine wastes mineralogy/geochemistry and texture in As mobility and to compare results from sequential chemical extraction and microscopic techniques [...] Read more.
Soil samples from three inactive mines, corresponding to different Arsenic-bearing mineralization types, were collected and studied. The aim was to determine the influence of mine wastes mineralogy/geochemistry and texture in As mobility and to compare results from sequential chemical extraction and microscopic techniques (optical and electron) at a grain scale. Arsenic in soils is found mainly associated to the residual fraction, indicating that mechanical As dispersion is mainly responsible for As soil pollution. The use of objective microscopic techniques (i.e., Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy -SEM-EDS-, High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy -HR-TEM) has pointed out that the selected sequential extraction method overestimates the role of Mn amorphous oxy-hydroxides and organic matter in As retention while underestimating the mechanism of As adsorption onto clay particle surfaces. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Remediation of Soil Polluted with Cd in a Postmining Area Using Thiourea-Modified Biochar
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(20), 7654; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17207654 - 20 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 754
Abstract
Cadmium presence in soil is considered a significant threat to human health. Biochar is recognized as an effective method to immobilize Cd ions in different soils. However, obtaining effective and viable biochar to remove elevated Cd from postmining soil remains a challenge. More [...] Read more.
Cadmium presence in soil is considered a significant threat to human health. Biochar is recognized as an effective method to immobilize Cd ions in different soils. However, obtaining effective and viable biochar to remove elevated Cd from postmining soil remains a challenge. More modifiers need to be explored to improve biochar remediation capacity. In this investigation, pot experiments were conducted to study the effects of poplar-bark biochar (PBC600) and thiourea-modified poplar-bark biochar (TPBC600) on Cd speciation and availability, as well as on soil properties. Our results showed that the addition of biochar had a significant influence on soil properties. In the presence of TPBC600, the acid-soluble and reducible Cd fractions were transformed into oxidizable and residual Cd fractions. This process effectively reduced Cd bioavailability in the soil system. Compared to PBC600, TPBC600 was more effective in improving soil pH, electrical conductivity (EC), organic matter (SOM), total nitrogen (TN), ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N), available potassium (AK), available phosphorus (AP), and available sulfur (AS). However, this improvement diminished as incubation time increased. Results of Pearson correlation analysis, multivariate linear regression analysis, and principal component analysis showed that soil pH and available phosphorus played key roles in reducing the available cadmium in soil. Therefore, TPBC600 was shown to be an effective modifier that could be used in the remediation of soil polluted with Cd. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Industrial Structure Adjustment and Regional Green Development from the Perspective of Mineral Resource Security
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(19), 6978; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17196978 - 24 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 760
Abstract
Mineral resource security is the premise and foundation of the regional green rise strategy. And the adjustment of industrial structure is an effective way to relieve the pressure of the current green economy transformation. Based on the Shift-share Method and the Spatial Durbin [...] Read more.
Mineral resource security is the premise and foundation of the regional green rise strategy. And the adjustment of industrial structure is an effective way to relieve the pressure of the current green economy transformation. Based on the Shift-share Method and the Spatial Durbin model, this paper takes 30 regions in China from 2006 to 2017 as examples to study the impact of industrial structure adjustment on China’s green development from the perspective of mineral resource security. The empirical results show that: China is still in the process of industrial transfer. The dynamic effect of industrial structure promotes green development from the perspective of mineral resource security, while its static effect inhibits green development from the perspective of mineral resource security. The spatial spillover effect of the industrial structure affecting green development from the perspective of mineral resource security is significant. The static structural effect of the tertiary industry promotes the green development of the region, and it has a significant negative impact on neighboring areas, while the secondary industry’s static structural effect has the opposite effect. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Modelling the Transference of Trace Elements between Environmental Compartments in Abandoned Mining Areas
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 5117; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17145117 - 15 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 985
Abstract
An openly accessible cellular automaton has been developed to predict the preferential migration pathways of contaminants by surface runoff in abandoned mining areas. The site where the validation of the results of the Contaminant Mass Transfer Cellular Automaton (CMTCA) has been carried out [...] Read more.
An openly accessible cellular automaton has been developed to predict the preferential migration pathways of contaminants by surface runoff in abandoned mining areas. The site where the validation of the results of the Contaminant Mass Transfer Cellular Automaton (CMTCA) has been carried out is situated on the steep flank of a valley in the Spanish northwestern region of Asturias, at the foot of which there is a village with 400 inhabitants, bordered by a stream that flows into a larger river just outside the village. Soil samples were collected from the steep valley flank where the mine adits and spoil heaps are situated, at the foot of the valley, and in the village, including private orchards. Water and sediment samples were also collected from both surface water courses. The concentration of 12 elements, including those associated with the Cu-Co-Ni ore, were analyzed by ICP-OES (Perkin Elmer Optima 3300DV, Waltham, MA, USA) and ICP-MS (Perkin Elmer NexION 2000, Waltham, MA, USA). The spatial representation of the model’s results revealed that those areas most likely to be crossed by soil material coming from source zones according to the CMTCA exhibited higher pollution indexes than the rest. The model also predicted where the probabilities of soil mass transfer into the stream were highest. The accuracy of this prediction was corroborated by the results of trace element concentrations in stream sediments, which, for elements associated with the mineral paragenesis (i.e., Cu, Co, Ni, and also As), increased between five- and nine-fold downstream from the predicted main transfer point. Lastly, the river into which the stream discharges is also affected by the mobilization of mined materials, as evidenced by an increase of up to 700% (in the case of Cu), between dissolved concentrations of those same elements upstream and downstream of the confluence of the river and the stream. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Evolution of the Speciation and Mobility of Pb, Zn and Cd in Relation to Transport Processes in a Mining Environment
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 4912; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17144912 - 08 Jul 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1001
Abstract
Elements in mining extracts can be potentially toxic if they are incorporated into soils, sediments or biota. Numerous approaches have been used to assess this problem, and these include sequential extractions and selective extractions. These two methods have limitations and advantages, and their [...] Read more.
Elements in mining extracts can be potentially toxic if they are incorporated into soils, sediments or biota. Numerous approaches have been used to assess this problem, and these include sequential extractions and selective extractions. These two methods have limitations and advantages, and their combined use usually provides a rough estimate of the availability or (bio)availability of potentially toxic elements and, therefore, of their real potential as toxicants in food chains. These indirect speciation data are interesting in absolute terms, but in the work described here, this aspect was developed further by assessing the evolution of availability-related speciation in relation to the transport processes from the emission source, which are mainly fluvial- and wind-driven. This objective was achieved by characterizing tailings samples as the source of elements in soils and sediments at increasing distances to investigate the evolution of certain elements. The standard procedures employed included a sequential five-step extraction and a selective extraction with ammonium acetate. The results show that the highest percentages of Zn and Pb in tailings, soils and sediment samples are associated with oxyhydroxides, along with a significant presence of resistant mineralogical forms. In the case of Cd, its association with organic matter is the second-most important trapping mechanism in the area. The physicochemical mechanisms of transport did not transform the main mineralogical associations (oxyhydroxides and resistant mineralogical forms) along the transects, but they produced a chaotic evolution pattern for the other minor matrix associations for Zn and a decrease in exchangeable and carbonate-bound forms for Pb in soils. Interestingly, in sediments, these mobile forms showed a decrease in Zn and a chaotic evolution for Pb. The most probable reason for these observations is that Zn2+ can form smithsonite (ZnCO3) or hydrozincite (Zn5(CO3)2(OH)6), which explains the retention of a carbonate-bound form for Zn in the soil transect. In contrast, Pb and Cd can appear as different mineral phases. The order of (bio)availability was Pb > Zn > Cd in tailings but Cd > Pb > Zn in soils. The physicochemical processes involved in transport from tailings to soils produce an increase in Cd (bio)availability. The trend is a decrease in bioavailability on moving away from the source (tailings), with maximum values obtained for Cd near to the source area (200–400 m). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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Article
Health Risk Evaluation of Trace Elements in Geophagic Kaolinitic Clays within Eastern Dahomey and Niger Delta Basins, Nigeria
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4813; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17134813 - 04 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 710
Abstract
The deliberate consumption of earthly materials is a universally recognised habit with health benefits and risks to those that practice it. Thirteen (13) samples comprising of six (6) Cretaceous and seven (7) Paleogene/Neogene geophagic kaolinitic materials, respectively, were collected and analysed for trace [...] Read more.
The deliberate consumption of earthly materials is a universally recognised habit with health benefits and risks to those that practice it. Thirteen (13) samples comprising of six (6) Cretaceous and seven (7) Paleogene/Neogene geophagic kaolinitic materials, respectively, were collected and analysed for trace element concentrations (V, Cr, Co, Ni, Zn, Pb, and Fe), and possible risk on consumers’ health. The trace element compositions were obtained using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) analytical methods. Based on their average concentrations, Fe > V > Cr > Ni > Zn > Pb > Cu > Co and Fe > V > Cr > Zn > Cu > Pb > Ni > Co for the Cretaceous and Paleogene/Neogene geophagic clays, respectively. Iron concentrations were significantly higher in Paleogene/Neogene geophagic clays than in Cretaceous geophagic clays. The nutritional value of Cu and Zn were lower whereas, Cr and Fe were higher than the recommended dietary intake. The index of geoaccumulation (0 < Igeo ≤ 1) showed that the geophagic materials were uncontaminated to moderately contaminated by the trace elements. The overall hazard indices (HI) for non-carcinogenic effects showed that the geophagic clays pose threat to children (HI > 1) and no threat to adults (HI < 1) health. However, the carcinogenic risk indices (CRI) for Cr, Ni, and Pb were within acceptable cancer risks (10−6 < CRI < 10−4) for children and adults. Hence, based on the trace element s HI and CRI, this study concluded that the consumption of Cretaceous and Paleogene/Neogene geophagic kaolinitic clays poses no risks to adult health but children might suffer health risk if the geophagic clays are not beneficiated before ingestion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mining and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities)
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