Contamination Fingerprints in an Inactive W (Sn) Mine: The Regoufe Mine Study Case (Northern Portugal)

Sant’Ovaia, H.; Cruz, C.; Guedes, A.; Ribeiro, H.; Santos, P.; Pereira, S.; Espinha Marques, J.; Ribeiro, M.d.A.; Mansilha, C.; Martins, H.C.B.; Valentim, B.; Torres, J.; Abreu, I.; Noronha, F.; Flores, D. Contamination Fingerprints in an Inactive W (Sn) Mine: The Regoufe Mine Study Case (Northern Portugal). Minerals 202313, 497.

The target of this study was the tungsten Regoufe mine, whose exploitation stopped in the 1970s. When the mine closed, an unacceptable legacy constituted of mining waste tailings and the ruins of infrastructure was left behind. This work assessed the soil, plants, and water contamination in the mining area; namely their content in potentially toxic elements (PTEs). The global impact of PTEs in the Regoufe mine surface soil points to a very high to ultrahigh degree of contamination of the area having a serious ecological risk level, mainly related to As and Cd contributions. However, establishing the direct relation between As contamination and the anthropogenic effects caused by the mining process cannot be carried out in a straightforward manner, since the soils were already enriched in metals and metalloids as a result of the geological processes that gave origin to the mineral deposits. The studies performed on the plants revealed that the PTE levels in the plants were lower than in the soil, but site-specific soil concentrations in As and Pb positively influence bioaccumulation in plants. The magnetic studies showed the presence of magnetic technogenic particles concentrated in the magnetic fraction, in the form of magnetic spherules. The magnetic technogenic particles probably result from temperature increases induced by some technological process related to ore processing/mining activity. The PTEs in the surface and groundwater samples were similar and relatively low, being unlikely to pose potential health and environmental risks. Arsenic (As) constituted the exception, with levels above reference for drinking water purposes. Read the full article.