Trace Element Uptake by Mitchell Grasses Grown on Mine Wastes, Cannington Ag–Pb–Zn Mine, Australia: Implications for Mined Land Reclamation

Niels Munksgaard, Mark Daniel, B. G. Lottermoser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was conducted to determine the metal (Ag, Al, As, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sb, Zn) tolerance and uptake of Mitchell grasses when grown on waste rocks and tailings of a base metal mine, Australia. The objective of conducting such phytoremediation studies was to gain data relating to the implementation and effectiveness of capping and revegetation strategies for mine waste repositories in regions of native grasslands. Pot trials demonstrate that Mitchell grasses are metal tolerant and have the ability to accumulate significant concentrations of metals (Pb, Zn) into their above-ground biomass. Concentrations of metals in Mitchell grasses were evaluated in terms of maximum allowable dietary levels in livestock. The pot trial project revealed that if Mitchell grasses were to be used for mined land reclamation and were grown on tailings, the grasses could potentially accumulate large quantities of Zn in their tissue, potentially causing harmful effects on animals feeding on them. Hence, it is undesirable that Mitchell grasses are grown on and their root system come in contact with tailings with elevated level of Zn. Otherwise, the species may accumulate phyto- and zootoxic concentrations of Zn. The metal tolerance, the tendency to accumulate metals in the above-ground biomass and the significant root penetration depth of Mitchell grasses have implications for the design of tailings storage facilities. Capping of waste repositories, containing elevated metal concentrations and using a cover system without capillary breaks, clay layers or alternative strategies, may not be sustainable in the long term. The application of phosphate amendments to tailings may represent an alternative strategy to limit the uptake of metals by Mitchell grasses. The pot trials prove that the addition of phosphate to mine wastes decreases the bio-availability of metals in these materials and reduces the Pb and Zn concentration in Mitchell grasses growing on them. Thus, the addition of phosphate amendments to the top layers of metalliferous mine wastes may represent an alternative waste management strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-259
Number of pages17
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


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