Chemical and biological tests to assess the viability of amendments and Phalaris arundinacea for the remediation and restoration of historic mine sites

Benjamin Nunn, Richard A Lord, Christine M Davidson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

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Inadequate waste disposal practices at historic mining sites around the world have resulted in significant areas impacted by potentially toxic elements (PTE) [1]. Historic mining tailings and spoil are typically too physically, chemically and biologically deficient for spontaneous vegetation, allowing the redistribution of contaminated soils, mobilized through processes such as areolation and the movement water [2]. In-situ biological and chemical stabilisation of sites is increasingly considered the best option when managing the risks associated with historic mining [1]. Studies have shown that the immobilization of PTEs can be achieved through the use of low leaching waste amendments capable of adsorption, precipitation and complexation reactions, resulting in the redistribution of contaminants from solution phase to solid phase, thereby reducing their bioavailability and mobilization potential within the environment [2–4] and promoting plant growth and physical stabilisation.
Recent research in the Upper River Derwent, NE England (Lord, pers. com.) has highlighted the contribution of historic mining and mineral processing areas as sources of particulate and dissolved PTEs entering river sediments. Subsequent analysis of mining and mineral processing sites has confirmed the presence of significant Cd, Pb and Zn concentrations in loose spoil, tailings and unvegetated soils. The aim of this study is to evaluate the potential of several organic amendments and a perennial native grass species, Reed Canarygrass (RCG) (Phalaris arundinacea), to immobilize and stabilise contaminated soils [5,6]. This plant was selected for its ability to rapidly colonize and establish on contaminated soils whilst not (usually) accumulating high levels of PTEs or thereby adding to dispersion [5,6]. A combination of biological and chemical approaches will be used to analyse the efficacy of the different amendments throughout this study. These include the use of the modified BCR sequential extraction procedure and single extractants to assess PTE bioavailability, the monitoring of changes in soil properties such as OM, pH and CEC and the measurement of above ground biomass after a 12-week growth period. Although several recent studies have conducted similar pot trials, very few have applied their results to actual field trials, a recommendation commonly made in key literature reviews [1]. The results of our experiments will used to implement a two-year phytoremediation trial at a former mine site beginning in Spring 2019.
[1] Bolan N, Kunhikrishnan A, Thangarajan R, Kumpiene J, Park J, Makino T, et al. Journal of Hazardous Materials. (2014) 266:141-166
[2] Rodríguez L, Gómez R, Sánchez V, Alonso-Azcárate J.. Environ Sci Pollut Res. (2016) 23:6046-6054
[3] Alvarenga P, Gonçalves AP, Fernandes RM, de Varennes A, Vallini G, Duarte E, et al.. Sci Total Environ. (2008) 406:43-56
[4] Badmos BK, Sakrabani R, Lord R.. Arch Agron Soil Sci. (2015) 62:865-876
[5] Jensen EF, Casler MD, Farrar K, Finnan JM, Lord R, Palmborg C, et al. 5 –In: Perennial Grasses for Bioenergy and Bioproducts. (2018) 5:153-173
[6] Lord RA. Biomass and Bioenergy. (2015) 78;110-125
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2019
EventScottish Ecology, Environment and Conservation Conference 2019 - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Apr 20193 Apr 2019


ConferenceScottish Ecology, Environment and Conservation Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleSEECC 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • mining
  • mineral processing
  • river sediments
  • former mines
  • Phalaris arundinacea


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