Levels of cadmium and zinc in soil and plants following the toxic spill from a pyrite mine, Aznalcollar, Spain

D J Pain, A Meharg, G Sinclair, N Powell, J Finnie, R Williams, G Hilton

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9 Citations (Scopus)


On 25 April 1998, a breach of the tailings dam of the Los Frailes pyrite mine in southwestern Spain resulted in the release of 6 million m(3) of acidic water and toxic sludge high in heavy metals. Contaminated material extended 40 km downstream, affecting agricultural land and parts of the wildlife-rich Donana Natural and National Parks, including the Entremuros, a very important area for birds. We report on the concentrations, distributions and bioavailability of zinc and cadmium in soil and vegetation from the Entremuros in November 1998 and October 1999, following 2 'cleanup' operations. Levels of Zn and Cd in soil increased significantly over this period, although this was not reflected consistently in metal concentrations in emergent macrophytes. We recommend monitoring of further cleanup attempts in order to develop means of minimizing potential impacts to wildlife in the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-57
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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