Stability of tailings ponds in the mining district of mazarrón (SE spain): Potential risks for the moreras rambla

Journal ar
Boletin Geologico y Minero
  • Volumen: 122
  • Número: 2
  • Fecha: 01 April 2011
  • Páginas: 145-160
  • ISSN: 03660176
  • Source Type: Journal
  • Document Type: Article
We have used geochemical, geophysical and geotechnical techniques to identify and quantify the environmental risks of the San Cristóbal and Las Moreras tailing ponds, which have been left since the closing down of Pb-Zn mining activities in a semi-arid Mediterranean area. The results show that the tailings ponds present a potential risk to nearby ecosystems because of their high acidity, high salinity and high concentrations of metals, especially Pb and Zn contain. If the pond dams were to fail or if erosion carried dry sludge to the surrounding areas, the result would be pollution, acidification, salinization, compaction and nutrient depletion of the soil, thus reducing the biodiversity of the area. Geoelectrical tomography has shown the depth of the deposits, their volume and the geomorphology of the basement. The profiles reveal that in none of the pseudo-sections are there any regions betraying cracks that might affect the stability of the structures. In fact, geotechnical studies indicate that on a large scale both ponds are stable. Nevertheless, if we contemplate circular rupture and seismic action in the San Cristobal pond, the safety factor values become critical. It is recommended, therefore, that periodic inspections should be carried out to assess moisture, upsurges and settlements in the dam. To reduce erosion of the surface sludge in the tailing ponds we suggest the application of alkaline and organic remediation so as to improve their geochemical characteristics and encourage the establishment of natural vegetation.

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