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An emerging tool for mine reclamation
Tailings sites left from mining operations contain heavy metals which have the potential to bioaccumulate and leech into the surrounding soil and watersheds. Although some heavy metals are essential for biological processes, higher concentrations can be toxic and negatively impact nearby ecosystems and human health. Current tailings reclamation processes are often insufficient in preventing heavy metal bioaccumulation or too expensive and time demanding to be realistically incorporated into mine reclamation strategies. Absorbent porous minerals have been used in industrial wastewater management to remove contaminants. In this study we used one such absorbent mineral, zeolite, to test its ability in neutralizing lead, arsenic and cadmium metals in gold and copper mine tailings. We compared three different concentrations of zeolite in tailings soil and the subsequent effects on plant growth. Although treatment differences in plant biomass was not statistically significant, forthcoming data on heavy metal uptake by the plants will offer more detailed information on the zeolites affect on plant growth.
Zeolites -- Environmental aspects