Land Degradation and Development
Land pollution due to past mining activities is a major environmental issue in many European countries. The Aljustrel mine (SW Portugal), located in the western sector of the Iberian Pyrite Belt (IBP) presents a negative visual and environmental impact as a consequence of the mining activity that has developed since the Roman era. Its impacts are also a restraint on the life quality of the population. The exposure of pyrite and other sulphides to air are responsible for the pollution observed in soils, surface water and stream sediments. This paper investigates the pollution load of potential toxic elements in soil samples collected around the Aljustrel mining area. The aim is to assess the levels of soil contamination with respect to average concentrations of toxic elements in the region and to understand the partitioning and availability of pollutants in the area. The results showed severe soil contamination (mainly As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn). The concentrations of As (up to 3936mgkg -1) and certain heavy metals (up to 5414mgkg -1 Cu, 61·6mgkg -1 Cd, 20000mgkg -1 Pb and 20000mgkg -1 Zn) are two orders of magnitude above the regional South Portuguese Zone (SPZ) background values. The median concentrations of As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn exceed the values established for world soils, the European Union, Portugal and Andalusia. The results suggest that the distribution patterns of Co, Cr and Ni element concentrations in the Aljustrel area are primarily influenced by the lithology and geochemistry nature of bedrock. The soil background of this geological domain is characterized by relatively high heavy metal contents, essentially derived from the parent rocks. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Year of publication: 2011