The Effect of Platinum Mining on Surrounding Soils and Vegetation: A Preliminary Assessment

M.S. Maboeta, S.J. van Wyk, L. van Rensburg, and P. Jansen van Rensburg (South Africa)


Metals, platinum mining, tailings, vegetation and vegetation stress


A gradient study was conducted to evaluate the possible impacts of platinum mining on surrounding soils and vegetation. Using the tailings disposal facility (TDF) as reference point, soil as well as tissue analysis was carried out from the samples taken at pre-selected distance intervals in a north-easterly direction from the mine. Vegetation surveys were also conducted to indicate the status along the gradient and plant stress was also determined to support the merits of possible outcomes. An increase in vegetation stress (lowered performance index) was found as one moved away from the reference point up until the 3 – 4 km mark. Vegetation stress decreased onwards, although it was still significantly lower than the 15 km (control) plot. Vegetation wise there was still dissimilarity between the tailings disposal facility and the natural environment. The dominance of pioneer species adjacent to the TDF also correlated largely with an increase in vegetation stress. Cr, Cu and Ni were found to be high in the TDF material while Co, Pb, V and Zn were too high in the soils at selected intervals. Cu and Zn showed the highest bioaccumulation factor. The fluctuation in vegetation stress could not be ascribed to a specific factor though.

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