Heavy metal leaching from mine tailings as affected by organic amendments

Paul Schwab, D. Zhu, M. K. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


A column experiment was conducted to investigate Zn, Cd, and Pb leaching from mine tailings as affected by the addition of organic amendments. Composted yard waste, composted cattle manure, and cattle manure aged for one month increased heavy metal leaching from mine tailings when compared to an unamended control. Aged cattle manure and composted cattle manure significantly increased Zn concentration in the leachate. The maximum Zn concentration in leachate from the manure-amended treatments was as high as 3.7 mg/L, whereas Zn concentrations from the control were less than 0.7 mg/L. All organic amendments increased Cd leachate concentrations. The presence of aged cattle manure greatly increased Pb concentrations in the leachate from less than 10 μg/L for the control treatment to higher than 60 μg/L. Lead concentration in leachate was positively correlated with inorganic carbon, total organic carbon, total carbon and bicarbonate. Although organic amendments increased Zn, Cd, and Pb leaching when compared with the control treatment, Zn concentrations were lower than the 5 mg/L secondary drinking water standard, and Pb concentrations were only minimally higher than the 15 μg/L drinking water standard. Cadmium concentrations from manure treatments exceeded the 5 μg/L drinking water standard but only during the first 15 days. Organic amendments may encourage establishment of vegetation in mining areas that may minimize heavy metal contamination through runoff and erosion. However, increased risk due to heavy metal leaching in the presence of organic amendments should be carefully considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2935-2941
Number of pages7
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Contamination
  • Groundwater
  • Heavy metals
  • Leachate
  • Manure
  • Mining waste
  • Organic amendments
  • Plants
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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