Characterization of a mine legacy site: an approach for environmental management and metals recovery

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2020 Mar;27(9):10103-10114. doi: 10.1007/s11356-019-06987-x. Epub 2020 Jan 23.


The characterization of historical mine tailings provides important information for land-management decisions, in particular when considering potential reprocessing activities or the development of an environmental protection program. In addition, outcomes from such characterization may define the scope for a more detailed investigation. The present work describes the characterization of the waste material from the Cabeço do Pião tailings impoundment performed within the project ReMinE: Improve Resource Efficiency and Minimize Environmental Footprint. The purpose of the work was to investigate alternative mine waste management options such as the extraction of valuable resources from an environmental liability. The study involved the collection of 41 samples at different locations at two different depths, physical and chemical characterization of the wastes, natural leaching tests, and potential for acid generation. The results showed that, apart from the potential instability of the dyke (with an average slope of 35°), the drained solutions flowing by percolation contain very small particles with high arsenic contents that are being incorporated into the river sediments. In addition, these very fine-grained materials are available for the transport by the wind creating secondary sources of environmental contamination. This data is fundamental for economic and environmental assessment of the two main alternatives, reprocessing or removal.

Keywords: Acid mine drainage; Arsenic; Mine tailings; Reprocessing; Waste management.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis
  • Metals / analysis


  • Metals
  • Arsenic