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Benthic community status and mobilization of Ni, Cu and Co at abandoned sea deposits for mine tailings in SW Norway

Schaanning, Morten Thorne, Trannum, Hilde Cecilie, Øxnevad, Sigurd, Ndungu, Kuria
Marine pollution bulletin 2019 v.141 pp. 318-331
basins, benthic organisms, cobalt, copper, environmental quality, fauna, leaching, mine tailings, nickel, particle size, sediments, sulfides, water pollution, Norway
During 1960–94 tailings from an ilmenite mine in southwest Norway were placed in sea deposits in a sheltered fjord and a more exposed coastal basin. In 2015 both deposit sites were sampled to assess the state of metal contamination and macrobenthic communities 20–30 years after deposition was ended. The results showed that nickel and copper still exceeded environmental quality standards in sediment and pore water from the 0–1 cm layer, and fluxes of nickel, copper and cobalt to the overlying water was high compared to adjacent reference stations. Fauna communities were classified as good, but moderate disturbance was recorded along an environmental gradient defined by depth and tailings-induced parameters such as particle size and copper. The results were interpreted in terms of current discharges, biological sediment reworking and near-surface leaching of metal sulphides. No evidence was found for recycling of metals from tailings buried below the bioturbated surface layer.