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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

The Pedological Properties of Tailings Derived From Three Mining Operations in the Sudbury Area, Ontario, Canada1


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 11 No. 3, p. 511-518

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  1. G. K. Rutherford,
  2. D. Dimma,
  3. G. W. van Loon and
  4. W. G. Breck2



The pedological properties of tailings derived from Ni-Cu, Pb-Zn, and Au mining have been examined by conventional field and laboratory techniques. The Ni-Cu tailings have been vegetated by seeding, whereas the Pb-Zn and Au tailings have remained devoid of vegetation for >40 years. Tailing catenas have been developed and, depending on disposition of local water tables, regosolic-like profiles have formed with strongly reduced deep horizons overlain by variably oxidized subsurface horizons.

Although unvegetated tailings are strongly acidic, dressings of agricultural lime hold surface vegetated horizons at about pH 6; however these profiles also become strongly acidic with depth. Organic content is low and in some unvegetated tailings is higher than in those supporting vegetation. Sulfates are higher than in most soils in humid temperate regions. Exchangeable trace cations can be detected usually only with extractant at pH 4.2. Clay mineralogy reflects country rock, but high amounts of vermiculite and significant quantities of smectite and kaolin appear to have been formed as well as sand-sized jarosite. Micromorphologically, the tailings are characteristic of very weakly developed soils.

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