Copper mining in the eastern Amazon: an environmental perspective on potentially toxic elements.Environ Geochem Health. 2022 Jun; 44(6):1767-1781.EG
Mining activity is of great economic and social importance; however, volumes of metallic ore tailings rich in potentially toxic elements (PTEs) may be produced. In this context, managing this environmental liability and assessing soil quality in areas close to mining activities are fundamental. This study aimed to compare the concentrations of PTEs-arsenic (As), barium (Ba), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), mercury (Hg), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn)-as well as the fertility and texture of Cu tailings and soils of native, urban and pasture areas surrounding a Cu mining complex in the eastern Amazon. The levels of PTEs were compared with soil prevention values, soil quality reference values, global average soil concentrations and average upper continental crust concentrations. The contamination factor (CF), degree of contamination (Cdeg), potential ecological risk index (RI), geoaccumulation index (Igeo) and pollution load index (PLI) were calculated. The levels of Co, Cu and Ni in the tailings area exceeded the prevention values, soil quality reference values and average upper continental crust concentrations; however, the tailings area was considered unpolluted according to PLI and RI and presented a low potential ecological risk. The high concentrations of PTEs are associated with the geological properties of the area, and the presence of PTEs-rich minerals supports these results. For the urban and pasture areas, none of the 11 PTEs analyzed exceeded the prevention values established by the Brazilian National Environment Council.