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Release of metal and arsenik from various mine tailings by Eriophorum angustifolium
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Botany.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Botany.
2006 (English)In: Plant and Soil, ISSN 0032-079X, E-ISSN 1573-5036, Vol. 289, no 1-2, 199-210 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]







Previous investigations have found that plants grown on sulphide-rich mine tailings have phytostabilising effects on acid mine drainage (AMD) by decreasing the pH and preventing the release of metals. The possibility of similar effects on tailings containing other minerals was investigated here. The aim was to examine the effects of Eriophorum angustifolium on four  water-covered mine tailings with different mineralogy – i.e. the plants’ effect on the release of elements from the tailings and the uptake of elements – to reveal if E. angustifolium  is suitable for phytostabilisation in various tailings. Seeds of E. angustifolium were sown in different tailings amended with sewage sludge. Arsenic, Cd, Cu, Fe, Pb and Zn levels in the drainage water and in plant tissues were examined. pH, alkalinity, SO2 4 and organic acid concentrations were measured in drainage water, and redox potential and O2 levels in the pore water. The effect of E. angustifolium on the release of metals from the tailings varied with the composition of the tailings. In tailings with a low buffering capacity and low element and sulphide levels, compared with the other tailings, E. angustifolium increased the release of metals, which was shown by the concentrations of elements and low pH in the drainage water and high concentrations of elements in theshoots, thereby generating a bio-concentration factor (BCF) >1. In tailings with a high concentration of elements, the plants had little effect on the levels of the elements in the drainage water, likely due to the presence of buffering agents in the tailings (added prior to the experiment). In this case, the pH did not decrease in the presence of plants and the shoot BCF was <1.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer , 2006. Vol. 289, no 1-2, 199-210 p.
Keyword [en]
Eriophorum angustifolium, Organic acids, Phytostabilisation, Redox potential, Water-covered mine tailings
National Category
Botany Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-23447DOI: 10.1007/s11104-006-9129-9OAI: diva2:192142
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-299Available from: 2004-11-18 Created: 2004-11-18 Last updated: 2010-11-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Phytostabilisation: use of wetland plants to treat mine tailings
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Phytostabilisation: use of wetland plants to treat mine tailings
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Mine tailings can be rich in sulphide minerals and may form acid mine drainage (AMD) through reaction with atmospheric oxygen and water. AMD contains elevated levels of metals and arsenic (As) that could be harmful to animals and plants. An oxygen-consuming layer of organic material and plants on top of water-covered tailings would probably reduce oxygen penetration into the tailings and thus reduce the formation of AMD. However, wetland plants have the ability to release oxygen through the roots and could thereby increase the solubility of metals and As. These elements are released into the drainage water, taken up and accumulated in the plant roots, or translocated to the shoots.

The aim was to examine the effects of plant establishment on water-covered mine tailings by answering following questions: A) Is plant establishment on water-covered mine tailings possible? B) What are the metal and As uptake and translocation properties of these plants? C) How do plants affect metal and As release from mine tailings, and which are the mechanisms involved?

Carex rostrata Stokes, Eriophorum angustifolium Honck., E. scheuchzeri Hoppe, Phragmites australis (Cav.) Steud., Salix phylicifolia L. and S. borealis Fr. were used as test plants. Influences of plants on the release of As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn and in some cases Fe in the drainage water, and plant element uptake were studied in greenhouse experiments and in the field.

The results obtained demonstrate that plant establishment are possible on water-covered unweathered mine tailings, and a suitable amendment was found to be sewage sludge. On acidic, weathered tailings, a pH increasing substance such as ashes should be added to improve plant establishment. The metal and As concentrations of the plant tissue were found to be generally higher in roots than in shoots. The uptake was dependent on the metal and As concentrations of the tailings and the release of organic acids from plant roots may have influenced the uptake. The metal release from tailings into the drainage water caused by E. angustifolium was found to depend greatly on the age and chemical properties of the tailings. However, no effects of E. angustifolium on As release was found. Water from old sulphide-, metal- and As-rich tailings with low buffering capacity were positively affected by E. angustifolium by causing higher pH and lower metal concentrations. In tailings with relatively low sulphide, metal and As contents combined with a low buffering capacity, plants had the opposite impact, i.e. a reduction in pH and elevated metal levels of the drainage water. The total release of metal and As from the tailings, i.e. drainage water together with the contents in shoots and roots, was found to be similar for C. rostrata, E. angustifolium and P. australis, except for Fe and As, where the release was highest for P. australis. The differences in metal and As release from mine tailings were mainly found to be due to the release of O2 from the roots, which changes the redox potential. Release of organic acids from the roots slightly decreased the pH, although did not have any particular influence on the release of metal and As.

In conclusion, as shown here, phytostabilisation may be a successful technique for remediation of mine tailings with high element and sulphide levels, and low buffering capacity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Botaniska institutionen, 2004. 45 p.
Phytostabilisation, wetland plants, mine tailings
National Category
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-299 (URN)91-7265-972-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2004-12-10, föreläsningssalen, Botanicum, Lilla Frescativägen 5, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2004-11-18 Created: 2004-11-18Bibliographically approved

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