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Characterization and assessment of potential environmental risk of tailings stored in seven impoundments in the Aries river basin, Western Romania

DOI: 10.1186/1752-153x-7-5

Keywords: Tailings, Hazardous/priority hazardous metal, Acid rock drainage, Environmental risk, Multivariate statistics

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Tailings were found to be highly contaminated with several hazardous/priority hazardous metals (As, Cu, Cd, Pb), and pose potential contamination risk for soil, sediments, surface and groundwater. Two out of the seven studied impoundments does not satisfy the criteria required for inert wastes, shows acid rock drainage potential and thus can contaminate the surface and groundwater. Three impoundments were found to be highly contaminated with As, Pb and Cd, two with As and other two with Cu. The tailings impoundments were grouped based on the enrichment factor, geoaccumulation index, contamination factor and contamination degree of 7 hazardous/priority hazardous metals (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn) considered typical for the studied tailings. Principal component analysis showed that 47% of the elemental variability was attributable to alkaline silicate rocks, 31% to acidic S-containing minerals, 12% to carbonate minerals and 5% to biogenic elements. Leachability of metals and ions was ascribed in proportion of 61% to silicates, 11% to acidic minerals and 6% to the organic matter. A variability of 18% was attributed to leachability of biogenic elements (Na, K, Cl-, NO3-) with no potential environmental risk. Pattern recognition by agglomerative hierarchical clustering emphasized the grouping of impoundments in agreement with their contamination degree and acid rock drainage generation potential.Tailings stored in the studied impoundments were found to be contaminated with some hazardous/ priority hazardous metals, fluoride and sulphate and thus presents different contamination risk for the environment. A long term monitoring program of these tailings impoundments and the expansion of the ecologization measures in the area is required.Exploitation of mineral resources containing base and precious metals is one of the main activities that have contributed to the development of humanity. In the same time, mining has a negative reputation because of the large amounts of as


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