An assessment of the influence of sulfidic mine wastes on rainwater quality in a semiarid climate (SE Spain)

A. Alcolea, C. Fernández-López, M. Vázquez, A. Caparrós, I. Ibarra, C. García, M. Zarroca, R. Rodríguez

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11 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. This study assessed the influence of the Sierra Minera de Cartagena - La Unión mining wastes on the surrounding areas, due to the sediment transport in the atmosphere. Monitoring of 15 weather stations located in the Campo de Cartagena land (SE Spain) was performed in the period December, 2004-March, 2008. A total of 920 rainfall water samples were collected and analyzed in this study. The network of weather stations covered a wide range of soil use and human activities (industrial, urban, agricultural, and mining sites). The physicochemical characterization involved determination of pH, EC, major ions, and the metals of interest in the soluble fraction of rainwater. Precipitations had an alkaline pH (7.0-7.9) and, compared to World Health Organization guidelines for drinking-water quality, samples were characterized by low EC (76-930μS/cm), Ni (0.1-8μg/L), Cu (3-88μg/L), As (0.04-2μg/L), Na+ (3-16mg/L), K+ (0.41-30mg/L), Ca2+ (6-51mg/L), Mg2+ (up to 5mg/L), Cl- (4-23mg/L), NO3- (1-30mg/L), and SO42- (4-35mg/L) values. In certain locations, Zn, Cd, and Pb exceeded the guideline limits. A downward trend of H+, Zn, Cd, and Pb concentrations in total depositions was observed while the distance to the area affected by mining activities increased in the first 20km. Rainwater quality was found to be just subtly affected by the metal-sulfide abandoned minesites, but without presenting a current threat to neither public health nor natural ecosystem. Nevertheless, greater attention should be paid in the future projections of climate change, where a significant increase in aridity may favor the atmospheric transport of pollutant particles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-94
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Rainwater pollution
  • Short-range transport
  • Sierra Minera de Cartagena - La Unión
  • Sulfidic mine waste
  • Total deposition

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