Investigation of Heavy Metals Dispersion Around the Messina Copper Mine Tailings Dam, South Africa

J.S. Ogola and A.M. Sebola (S. Africa)


Heavy Metals, Tailings, Dam and Mine Waste


The study of the Messina copper tailings dam focused on the distribution of Pb, Zn, Cu, Fe and Cd within the tailings dam and its environs. The fine-grained tailings material was eroded and dispersed by both wind and rain water. Investigation involved sampling of mine waste and soil, and sample analysis, using the AAS method to determine the metal values. The metal concentrations were maximum within and in the immediate vicinity of the tailings dam, registering maximum values of 32.9 mg/kg Pb; 2.52 mg/kg Zn; 12.59 mg/kg Cu; 5.19 mg/kg Fe; and 1.61 mg/kg Cd. There was a general decrease in the concentration of Pb away from the dam in all directions. Zn was uniformly distributed around the dam, although the concentrations were rather low (0.30-2.52 mg/kg). The distribution of Cu varied in different directions. For example, there was a significant increase in Cu values in the western direction from 4.27 mg/kg to 12.59 mg/kg, some 400 m away from the dam. Fe displayed a uniform distribution pattern with values ranging between 3.4-5.19 mg/kg. The study recommended to the relevant authorities, the need to undertake mine waste management at this site. There is need to rehabilitate the tailings dam.

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