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Keywords:

  • Soil quality;
  • Physical indicators;
  • Chemical indicators;
  • Biological indicators;
  • Mine soil;
  • Waste amendment

Abstract

The quality of soils found in mines is low if they do not receive any reclamation treatment; yet, to the authors' knowledge, there are still no equations to evaluate the quality of metal-contaminated mine soils after the application of the most widely used reclamation treatments (planting vegetation and amending with wastes). Therefore, the purposes of the present study were 1) to propose a method for developing soil quality indexes (SQIs); 2) to develop the SQIs for 2 types of mine soils (settling pond and mine tailing) reclaimed by planting trees, amending with wastes, or both; and 3) to assess the quality of these soils under field conditions. The results obtained after the use of an SQI developed for reclaimed mine soils through the selection of an SQI with a factor analysis and the totaling of the scores of the selected variables revealed that this method is a valid tool for developing SQIs. Applying this index with reclaimed mine soils showed that the untreated sites had a very low quality and that the treatment that most improved the soils was amending with wastes (sewage sludges and paper mill residues). The authors recommend the periodic addition of sewage sludges and paper mill residues to degraded sites as they increase the quality of soils, but the effects decrease over time. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2240–2248. © 2013 SETAC